Talk to Sam Toolin and it would appear the North Kingstown runner is a seasoned veteran.
Hard to believe, he's only a freshman. Hard to believe, he's only 14 years old.
Saturday afternoon at the Rick Schomp Invitational was the latest scintillating performance by the Skipper ninth-grader. Taking control just before reaching the gun lap, Toolin cruised to the individual title in the 800-meter run with a meet-record time of 1 minute, 55.2 seconds.
That clocking is not only a PR by two seconds, but the fastest posted by a freshman in the country this year.
"We have been doing a lot of speed lately so I definitely had it in there," Toolin said. "The first lap I just cruised behind everybody and drafted off them and the second lap I just took the lead and just kind of held it from there. The race went exactly how I had it planned. I wanted for the first lap to stay behind everybody and draft because it was a little windy out here and I knew I had to take it with 400 to go because those guys are a lot bigger than me. I didn't know if I could take them in the last 100 or 200."
The NK standout beat a talented field that saw three other runners crack two minutes. East Greenwich's Cebastian Gentil was second at 1:57.1. North Providence's Nathan Coogan took third in 1:58.0 and East Greenwich's Colin Cianciolo was fourth, crossing the line in 1:59.1. Early-race leader Mars Bishop of Barrington nearly made it five, finishing fifth with a time of 2:00.3.
Toolin's effort came just five days after he cruised to a previous best of 1:57.1 in a dual meet with East Greenwich and Chariho. That gave him confidence that a time around 1:55 was within reach.
"It definitely did," he said. "If I didn't run that time I don't think I would have been able to run this because I just wouldn't have been in the mindset that I am able to run that fast."
The North Kingstown frosh wasn't the only ninth-grader to run a quick two-lapper. In the 4x800-meter relay, his Skipper teammate Jack Perrault anchored the school's winning relay to a total time of 8:18.8 with a 2:02 leg.
In the team competition at Schomp, Bishop Hendricken's depth prevailed in a 75.5-57.5 win over runner-up West Warwick. The Hawks scored in 11 events with victories in the 4x100m relay (43.9) and by Ethan Famiano in the 110m hurdles (15.3). Smithfield was a winner for girls, defeating familiar rival Cumberland, 68-57. The Sentinels' lone win came from Alyssa Colbert in the discus with a toss of 115 feet, 11 inches.
The nearly six-hour meet, held at Chariho Regional, had a long list of great performances.
La Salle Academy's gifted trio of Jack Salisbury, DJ Principe and Matt Bouthillette finished 1-2-3 in the 1,500m. Salisbury defended his title, holding off Principe down the final straightaway en route to a nation No. 3 clocking and personal best of 3:52.1. Principe and Bouthillette also finished with PBs with times of 3:52.8 (US #4) and 3:56.5 (US #5), respectively.
Not surprisingly, the Ram teammates were hoping for a time slightly faster, perhaps a sub 3:50. With Salisbury holding a slight lead, the threesome went through the 800m mark at 2:01.
"(Our coaches) just wanted us to go out as hard as we could, sixty (seconds), sixty (seconds), sixty (seconds)," said Salisbury, making reference to the first three laps. "We kind of fell apart at the last half, but that was the plan. Just try and hold on and run as fast as possible."
Central made a statement in the 200m dash with four of their
sprinters in the top five positions, including a sweep of the first three.
Junior Donatien Djero held off classmate Austin Wolo with a winning, hand-held
time of 21.50. Wolo was second at 21.90 and junior Dametrius O'Connor took
third at 22.30. Roger's Levon Campbell
was fourth (22.40), just ahead of the Knights' Franklin Mercado (22.50).
All four Central runners were part of the state indoor champion 4x200m relay squad.
"It's actually pretty good, running with the top runners in the state," Wolo admitted. "It actually pushes you in practice to work harder. If I didn't have them, I don't know where I would be right now. It's great to have them running. Donatien's 21.5 really pushed me to run that 21.9 (today)."
The Knights also earned gold in the 4x400m relay with a fast
time of 3:25.80. Hendricken was second at 3:29.60.
For the second straight year, East Providence's Alejandro Duarte was the first to break the tape in the 400m dash. Duarte eked out a close win over second-place Yeury Glava of Central Falls with his time of 49.50. Galva was second at 49.90. Hendricken's Nick Williams finished third in 50.40.
"Today, I was just focused on winning and trying to go for a higher score," Duarte said. "The strategy was to just run all out and do my best and go a little harder than last year. That's why I'm a champion."
East Greenwich's Jackson Cronin broke nine minutes for the first time to capture the 3,000m with a time of 8:58.20. Ben Drezek of Cumberland was second at 9:07.60, also a PR.
In the girls' meet, East Greenwich junior Isabella Gentil was a double-winner, taking the 100 dash with a time of 12.20 and the 400m at 59.50. The longer race, a three-second PR, was a bit of a surprise.
"I have been talking to more and more college coaches and the times I have to reach for scholarships to get accepted. They are asking me for videos now," Gentil said. "I am trying to PR, show them my potential improvement during the season; get more attraction to new schools, different schools. This is definitely a start."
The nation's top hammer thrower, Courtney Jacobsen of Toll
Gate, copped her specialty with a heave of 177-7. Finishing second was
Ponaganset's Gianna Rao at 169-3 (US #8).
Westerly's Randi Burr improved on her best by nearly three seconds to win the 1,500m with a time of 4:43.80. North Kingstown's Bethany Nunnery was the runner-up at 4:50.30.
In the 3K, La Salle swept the first three placements and had four of its runners among the top five. Breaking from the pack after about three laps, the Rams' Eliza Rego cruised to the individual title with a time of 9:56.40. Teammate Karina Tavares was second in 10:02.40.
"It's my second race back (from the indoor season)," said Rego, the state's 1,500m and 1,000m champion this winter. "It felt good to run that time."
Narragansett's Marissa McPhillips led three runners under 2:20 with a winning time of 2:16.20. She was followed by Barrington's Julia Zitzmann (second, 2:18.80) and Hope's Leinni Valdez (third, 2:19.70).
Cumberland's Meaghan Scullin earned two victories. She was first in the long jump at 16-10 and also beat the field in the 300m hurdles with a school record of 45.30.