This season's injury fund kicked off at Deerfield Park in Smithfield, Rhode Island. This is a change from East Greenwich which has held the last several installments of Injury Fund before they took over from Burrillville high school in 2016. Deerfield also hosted the Class A and Class C Championships in 2020 during the pandemic season while Class B was held at the State course in Ponagansett. Injury Fund races are set up as matchups between the top 8 teams from the state meet the previous year. It is a ladder so the 1 seed faces off against the 8 seed, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, and 5 vs. 4.
In the Boys Varsity 1 race, the defending state champions La Salle Academy faced East Greenwich who lost low stick and All-Stater Jack Lombardi last fall. La Salle was hit hard by graduation with 4 of their top 7 graduating. Both squads bolstered several talented seniors like Jack Casey, Adam Thibodeau, and Lachlan Bishop for La Salle, juniors Jacob Connolly, and Nick Martin from East Greenwich, and two-time 1500 meter state champion Antonio Capalbo. This was shaping up to be the deepest race of the day, and it did not disappoint.
When the gun went off, Jack Casey set the pace along with teammate Adam Thibodeau. Casey called it a "relaxed effort," and wanted to "maintain control" throughout to a 15:58 clocking. He had several talented runners behind him, and Nick Martin of East Greenwich may have surprised many as he finished in second clocking an over 40 second PR running 16:02. Rounding out the top 5 was teammate Jacob Connolly in 16:13, La Salle's Adam Thibodeau in 16:19, and South Kingstown's Tony Capablo in 16:24. La Salle won the team title over East Greenwich 30-45 with Lachlan Bishop in 6th, David Parenteau in 10th, and Dario Dimascio in 11th, rounding out their top 5. Winner Jack Casey said, "I knew there were many talented individuals and it could have been anyone's race." He went on to say in the season's goal is "to score as few points as possible at the Rhode Island State Championship and bring another team title back to La Salle."
In the Girls Varsity 1 Race, La Salle's girl's team looked to also bring home another state title this season. They lost several key runners like their male counterparts including three seniors and Bridget Casey who will be trading in her spikes for a tennis racket. Though this may make La Salle seem like underdogs, this was not the case. Track star Caroline Cummings made her 5k debut in 19:13 and led a 1-2-3 for La Salle nearly a minute ahead of teammates Lily Borin and Elizabeth Perda in 20:07 and 20:17. Mia Barrus of Lincoln School for Girls finished in 4th and Emmy Belvin of MSC finished in 5th. Isabelle McDonald led South Kingstown to a runner-up performance 17-44 against La Salle. Rounding out the top 5 for LSA were Mia Bettez and Sydney Raynes in 7th and 8th.
The Boys Varsity Race 2 produced the fastest time of the day and featured 2020 cross country state runner-up Bishop Hendricken as well as Smithfield. Another runner in this race was Cooper Michaud who had a breakout year highlighted by a runner-up finish in the 1500 meters indoors. Cooper was with several other runners through a mile when he heard 5:15. He told me he decided "to make a move and luckily it worked out." I am not sure how much luck was involved as Cooper went on to run the fastest time of the day with a 15:43 and nearly 25 seconds ahead of runner-up Troy Silvestri of Hendricken 16:08.
Troy went on to lead a 2-3-4 for Hendricken with Keegan Tierney and Josh Breard finishing behind him in 16:08 and 16:25 respectively. Notably, Andrew Frezza of Hendricken was missing. He is currently injured but looked very good at the Bobby Doyle 5k where he won by a large margin. Hendricken took home the win thanks to Evan Mcgregor and Will Olsen finishing 10th and 12th respectively. They beat Smithfield 31-49 as they were led by Elijah Saddlemire who finished 6th in 16:54. Cooper stated his coach knew he had the strength for cross country from his 1500 results last year. He hopes to compete at the Class and State Championship Meets. From this performance, I have no doubt he will mix it up come November.
In the Girls Varsity 2 Race, State runner-ups in 2020 East Greenwich faced Portsmouth. Reese came out and set the pace early, winning by over 90 seconds in 18:05 over teammate Rylee Shunnery. Reese stated the goal was "a good effort" and she felt it was more of a fun race than anything else. She also said she enjoyed helping her teammates and pulling them to fast times. East Greenwich dominated the day placing 5 in the top 7 and 6 in the top 9. They were not affected by graduation as much as other schools and look strong as their previously young team is a year older in terms of experience. Ava Peters, Alicia Chen, and Ava Bradshaw finished 4th, 6th, and 7th for them. Caroline Jankowich of Classical placed 3rd in a sub 20 effort. Portsmouth was led by Katie Yalanis who finished 8th overall as they lost to East Greenwich 20-58.
In the Boys Varsity 3 Race, Saint Raphael's came in as an underdog who finished 6th at the state meet while North Kingstown finished 3rd. North Kingstown lost several seniors including All-Stater Greg Piturro, but Saint Raphael's lost blue-chip recruit Darius Kipyego as well. Devan Kipyego, brother of Darius who was injured before the state meet, did not miss a beat and won in 16:32. He was followed by teammate Jack Periera two seconds behind. 3rd was Jackson Borge of NK in 16:58, and 4th was another Saint Ray's runner, Pedro Mayol. Saint Ray's secured the win thanks to Patrick McDonald and Jackson Farrell finishing 14th and 18th. North Kingstown finished runner up 51-39 with Cameron Ferell placing 8th as well.
In the Girls Varsity 3 Race, North Kingstown faced off against Cumberland. North Kingstown meant business as they went 2-3-4 lead by the Sullivan sisters. Rory Sullivan was 19:20 and Molly Sullivan was 19:26. Ruby Nunnery of NK and Grace Carr of Cumberland rounded out the top 5. North Kingstown put 5 in the top 10 as they won 18-46 with Tori Chace and Gabriella Carnevale 6th and 10th.
While North Kingstown dominated the team competition, Sophia Gorriran returned to the trails after arguably the most successful track campaign in the history of high schoolers in Rhode Island. After racing every event from 200 meters to 2 miles and setting countless records along the way; she did not miss a beat as she covered the course in 18:37. Sophia felt it was more of a "tempo at 6 flat", and wanted to "get back into it after racing into late July. The Olympic Trials Qualifier has some big races on her schedule as she is set to run at Manhattan, Footlocker, and Alabama where she finished with All American honors in 2020.
In the Boys Varsity 4 Race, Cumberland faced Chariho. Chariho lost several seniors including All-Stater Sullivan Cummins while Cumberland returned almost their entire team. They were, however, without Henry Dennen who is a multi-time All-Stater in XC. Cole Mccue of Cumberland picked up the slack by winning the race in 16:32. He finished 30 seconds ahead of teammates John Walker and Sam Kucal who completed the 1-2-3 punch. Joe Golas led Chariho to a runner-up finish with a 17:13 as Cumberland won in convincing fashion 19-48. Rounding out the top 5 was Adam Melnick of Narragansett in 17:21. Rounding out the top 5 for Cumberland were Ethan Carpenter and Matt Picchioni Cumberland in 7th and 8th.
In the Girls Varsity 4 Race, Chariho took on several talented squads including Cranston East, Coventry, and Barrington. The ladies of Chariho secured the win thanks to front running from sophomore Erin vonHousen who ran 20:01 and won by 52 seconds over the runner-up from Barrington Reilly Curran. Kaya West of Westerly secured 3rd, Ana Lacroix placed 4th for Chariho, and 5th was Stella Loezos of Cranston East. Chariho placed 3 in the top 10 thanks to Catherine Alleson's 22:50 5k, and won 57-64 over Cranston East.
In the Freshmen Boys Race, Cole Francis won in convincing fashion putting nearly 30 seconds on the runner-up with a 13:38 4k. Luke Allen of East Greenwich kicked by La Salle's Grady McGinnis for 2nd and 3rd. In the team battle, Bishop Hendricken continued their dominance winning another freshmen Injury Fund title. They defeated runner-up Barrington high school 49-85.
In the Freshmen Girls Race, Kiley DeFusco of Cumberland took home the title with a 16:01 for 4k. She beat Keaney Bayha of Pilgrim who ran 16:23, and Emma Soffientino of South Kingstown who ran 17:12. Emma helped to lead the SK girls to a freshmen team title over Barrington 32-47.
Overall, Injury has proven two things. One, the boys' individual and team titles are wide open with La Salle and Hendricken vying for it. Individually a dozen or so names could be thrown into the conversation with some schools bolstering multiple runners capable of bringing home an individual title. Two, the girls of East Greenwich made a statement with their display of utter dominance led by Reese and Rylee. Come November, these races will shape up to be some of the best in recent memory.