PROVIDENCE – The reign is over.
Chariho Regional put a halt to 17 straight years of dominance by Bishop Hendricken on Saturday by taking the boys’ team title at the R.I. Interscholastic League Indoor Track and Field Championships with a 68-63 win over the runner-up Hawks.
In the girls’ competition, buoyed by record-setting performances from Dakota Dailey-Harris and Molly Keating, La Salle Academy captured its sixth consecutive crown. The Rams more than doubled the team score of second-place Hope with a runaway 115-52 win.
“For the most part, I just told them to go out and get PRs today,” said La Salle girls’ coach Dave Wright. “If they come out and all get PRs today, we should out-score everybody. They did that.”
Once again, the attention at the end of the meet was diverted over to the high jump pits where Dailey-Harris established a new state mark and a national catholic high school school record of 5 feet, 10 inches. Dailey-Harris, who nearly made six feet on all three of her attempts, is getting used to “raising the bar” each time she competes.
“It never gets old,” said Dailey-Harris, who is currently tied for No. 2 nationally. “At the beginning of the season (I broke the state record of) 5-8 and last week it was 5-8 ½ (at the Class A Championship). Today it was 5-10. Breaking state records is my job right now.”
Wright couldn’t help but marvel at his star leaper, who also is a member of the school’s multiple state champion basketball squad.
“She’s unbelievable,” he said. “She plays basketball full time…and in the past in practice (assistant coach) Leah (Stoddard-Williams) gets her once a week. They run some approaches. They take some jumps. They talk about little things, and then that’s it. That’s all she can manage is about an hour a week. This year the schedule was very different and it was hard to get practice time. There was even a week or two where they didn’t get together. But the flip side is she was able to go to more meets. She came to more meets and got on- the-job kind of practice.”
“She’s just a tough, tough competitor,” he added. “She is just super, super tough. She’s got the right physical ability for the event and you got to have the right mentality. She’s tough mentality and she has all the physical attributes to be great.”
The Providence College-bound Keating, who was unable to compete at last year’s indoor meet due to an injury, made sure her last appearance inside the Providence Career and Technical Academy field house would be a memorable one.
After holding back in the early stages of the 3,000-meter run, Keating blasted the final five laps and crossed the finish line with a state and meet record of 9 minutes, 59.47 seconds. She came back less than an hour later to take the 1,500, edging Classical sophomore Maddy Berkson with a time of 4:43.12. Berkson, last year’s 1,500 and 1,000 champion, finished at 4:44.44.
If that wasn’t enough, Keating also completed a 1-2-3 sweep in the 1,000 with senior teammates McKenzie Meehan (first, 2:59.97) and her twin sister Madison Meehan (second, 3:00.65) by taking third at 3:00.65 and ran a fast 59-second leg on the Rams’ winning 4x400 relay (4:04.13).
La Salle also earned gold in the 4x800 relay with the quartet of senior Maddie Byrnes, junior Caitlin Marino and the Meehan sisters establishing a meet record of 9:34.77.
“We knew we were going to be really strong,” Wright said. “We knew our relays were going to be really strong…This is by far the best team all the way around that we have ever put out here with quality and depth in the 17 years I have been coaching. We felt confident coming in.”
As it has been for the past few years, Hope got a considerable amount of its points from sprinter/long jumper Royal Cheatham. Cheatham copped three individual events, winning the 55 dash with a state record of 7.11, taking the 300 with a 40.3 clocking and defeating her rivals in the long jump with a distance of 18-5 ½.
The talented Blue Wave athlete also ran the leadoff leg for her team’s record-setting 4x200 relay (1:42.20) with a personal-best split of 24 seconds flat. In her career on the indoor and outdoor surfaces, Cheatham has won 13 individual titles and been on five champion relay squads.
The Hope speedster took the most pride from her win in the dash where she broke a 27-year-old record that was held by former Blue Wave runner Pam Hughes, who did 7.15 at the 1985 state meet.
“This day is not any different from the rest,” she said. “The (55) felt like a regular win but now that I realize the record was like 27 years old, I really can’t describe how I feel right now.”
In both sprint events, Cheatham held off East Greenwich senior Jaimee Dorsey, who was timed in 7.20 for the 55 and 40.35 in the 300.
Chariho, which set a milestone by taking its first outdoor crown last June, also earned its first win indoors with its narrow decision over the Hawks. The Chargers accumulated all of its points from its distance core of senior Mike Marsella, junior Bryce Kelley, senior, Mike Gilligan, freshman Tom Turner, junior Jake Kilcoyne and senior Dan Kilcoyne.
Gilligan, Turner, Kelley and Dan Kilcoyne combined to win the meet’s first event, the 4x800 relay (8:11.08). In the 1,000, 1,500 and 3,000, the Chargers racked up its remaining 58 points. Marsella, just a week removed from finishing second in the high school mile at the Millrose Games, captured two of those events, breaking the tape in the 3,000 with a time of 8:49.23 and the 1,000 with a 2:30.88 clocking.
It was the 1,000 where the Chargers secured the title with Kelley taking second (2:34.33) and Dan Kilcoyne placing fourth (2:39.07).
“We knew we didn’t have to be perfect, we just had to be good,” longtime Charger coach Bill Habarek said. “I think they were just about perfect today.”
Marsella was just getting over a sickness suffered the day after Millrose. His coach admits it was a nerve-racking week leading up to the states.
“He came home about two o’clock Sunday morning from the Millrose Games and by eight o’clock that morning he was sick,” Habarek said. “He was totally dehydrated. He was sick for two days. He stayed home on Monday from school. He couldn’t practice on Tuesday. Wednesday he did a little. Thursday he did maybe a 25-minute run. He didn’t do much at all this week. We were thankful that he started to feel better at the end of the week. But up until Wednesday, we were pretty nervous.”
Marsella quickly put confidence in his coach that he was feeling fine with a more than six-second victory over Jake Kilcoyne (8:55.55) in the 3,000. The gifted Charger was in fourth place for two thirds of the race and put on a decisive surge with 1,000 meters left.
Marsella had an inkling his sickness was behind him the morning of the meet.
“I felt great when I woke up,” he said. “This week I was kind of a little ‘iffy’ and stuff, but I knew it wouldn’t be too big of a deal because I had the training under my belt. The week off from the mileage might have actually benefitted me a little bit. Definitely going into the race I knew what I had to do, just kind of wait until five or six laps (left) and make a move.”
Marsella clocked a personal best to easily take the 1,000 and Kelley was a convincing winner in the 1,500 with a 4:02.79 effort. Dan Kilcoyne was second at 4:07.02.
In 2011, Chariho was fourth overall in last year’s state meet with a similar squad.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Habarek, about winning the team crown. “It took a while for the outdoor championship to sink in. Maybe by June, this one will sink in.”
One of the meet’s biggest shockers occurred in the 25-pound weight throw where the nation’s best, senior Joe Velez of Classical, finished fourth overall with a toss of 66-10 ¼. Bishop Hendricken’s Reuben Horace, ranked No. 2 in the state, claimed the crown with a throw of 71-10 ¼. Velez’s best this year was 76-11 ¾, which he attained as part of a relay at the R.I. Classic in December.
Three meet record were set for boys with South Kingstown senior Zack Campo taking the 600 (1:21.91), Hope senior Jarell James winning the 300 (34.97) and La Salle senior Nyuanru Ben placing first in the 55 hurdles (7.67). Along with Marsella, James was the meet’s only other double victor, also breaking the tape in the 55 (6.57).
The high jump title went to Central Falls senior Steven Vazquez. The two-time defending outdoor titlist, captured his first indoor crown with a leap of 6-8.
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