October 24, 2014
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Out in Front
Girls teams poised for successful seasons
Warwick Beacon photos by Kevin Pomeroy
LEADING THE PACK: Pilgrim’s Danika Wayss runs in Thursday’s season-opening meet. The Pats have a strong nucleus back from the team that finished sixth at states last season.

Last year wasn’t measured in wins and losses for the Pilgrim girls’ indoor track team; it was measured by success at the big meets, and the Pats had more of that than they’ve had in quite some time.

Pilgrim finished sixth at the state meet last year, its best finish since 1997, and it also took third place in the divisional meet and fourth place at the Large Schools class meet. Despite a 3-5 division record, the Pats were able to excel when it mattered most thanks to some of the best top-level talent in the state.

That should be the recipe again.

The Pats return nearly all their top performers from a year ago, including long jump state champion Rebecca O’Donnell, now a senior. Pilgrim did graduate standout thrower Destinee Barrette, but with senior Maddison Caron ready to step out from under her shadow, the team is hoping it won’t miss a beat.

Pilgrim may not have the most depth, but it’s got the high-end performers to once again make some noise at the most important time of the year.

“In the major meets I think we’ll be good,” Pilgrim head coach Tom Dolce said. “And I’m not saying we’ll win, but we’ll give a good account of ourselves in the division meet.”

The Pats opened the season on Thursday with mixed results. They lost 59-50 to South Kingstown but beat Barrington 71-37.

But they’re focused on the bigger picture. The optimism makes sense, looking at the lineup.

O’Donnell should be the favorite to repeat as champion in the long jump, and she also contributes in the sprinting events. Caron was 10th in the weight throw and seventh in the shot put at states a year ago, and she’ll be trying to move up into the top six in both events this time around.

Caron and O’Donnell are the only two seniors on the roster, but they’re not the only standouts. Pilgrim also returns junior Melanie Brunelle, who took fourth place at last season’s state meet in the high jump and was just out of the medals with a seventh-place finish in the long jump.

Her eyes will be on a potential high jump title.

“She’s one of the best high jumpers in the state,” Dolce said. “She might even win it. Based on who’s back, she should be right in there.”

Those three might be the only ones who qualify for states, although there are some other candidates as well. Sophomore Danika Wayss leads the charge in the distance events and also heads a list of talented sophomores. Nicole Morales and Molly Lynch are strong sprinters, while Madison Stanley sprints and does the high jump. Kayda Phillip sprints and does the long jump.

Some combination of that group will make up the 4x100 and the 4x400 relays as well.

“I have an awesome crew of sophomores,” Dolce said.

The freshman class is only eight deep. But Bryana Mullin has stood out in the 3,000 and Maranda Duffie is making a name for herself in the 600 and 1,000.

Add it all up and it has the makings of another strong year for the Pats.

“Last year we tied for sixth in the states,” Dolce said. “I’d love to duplicate that. In class meet we were four, I’d love to duplicate that, and hopefully we can go a little higher in the division.”

Titans hoping to re-start the streak

It took 15 years, but it finally happened last season – the Toll Gate girls’ indoor track team lost a dual meet.

The Titans prefer the unbeaten route, and that’s their goal once again this year.

After a decade and a half of not losing, the Titans finished 6-2 last season to bring an end to one of the greatest stretches in school history in any sport.

Now, with almost everybody back from last year and a group of sophomores that led Toll Gate to a second-place finish at freshman states last year – plus a few new impact freshmen – the Titans are poised to reclaim their spot at the top of Division I-Bayha.

They’ve already started well, as they’re 2-0 thanks to easy victories over Hope and Coventry on Thursday.

“I think we’re a little bit stronger than last year,” Toll Gate head coach Norm Bouthillier said. “We’re looking forward to a good season. We have some returning veterans that have improved and we have some new girls that are really going to be good. We’re looking to hopefully win our division and get our unbeaten streak back.”

Returning to set the tone for the Titans is junior Erika Pena, a standout in multiple events. Last year at states, Pena came in sixth in both the 55 hurdles and the high jump, while also adding an eighth-place finish in the long jump. She runs on the team’s relays as well, making her the most important piece to Toll Gate’s success.

Last year, she scored all of Toll Gate’s points at states.

“She’s a threat in any event that she does,” Bouthillier said. “She’s a great hurdler, very great jumper – long and high jump – and she’s a vital part of both our relays.”

In addition to Pena, Toll Gate should have another standout in sophomore thrower Courtney Jacobsen.

Jacobsen emerged in the outdoor season last year and was the freshman state champ in the hammer and the runner-up in the discus. On Thursday, she threw over 45 feet in the weight throw, which puts her in the discussion for the state crown.

“She’s really stepped up,” Bouthillier said. “She threw 45 feet in the weight, which puts her top two in the state. That’s huge.”

Joining Jacobsen in the throwing events is freshman Ani Armenakyan, who is already throwing 30 feet in the weight. She’s also a candidate to qualify for states.

“Last year we were lacking in the throwing,” Bouthillier said. “We’ve got like 15 girls who throw. We’ve got a nice group out.”

In the distance events, junior Jess Cawley made the state meet in the 1,000 last year and ran well on Thursday. Senior Katie Lavallee is also a strong runner, and she was on the 4x800 team last season that took seventh in the state.

Sophomore Ashley Chin is coming on strong, as she has competed in both jumping events and relays and done well thus far.

“She’s another sophomore who’s really good,” Bouthillier said.

Sophomore Heather Allstrom could qualify for states in the 300, as she was ranked in the top 10 in the state last year as a freshman.

Senior Maddie Frechette-Thibeault took 12th in the state last year in the high jump and she’s back looking for more, while freshmen Kara Wolstenholme and Lily Fortin can do the hurdles, jumps and sprints and are already scoring points for the Titans. Freshman Lian Smithers is helping out in the distance events, as is freshman Madison Gothberg.

The Titans are hoping it’s enough to get them back to the top in their division. After that, they should have five or six girls who qualify as individuals for states, plus relays, giving them the potential for a high finish.

“It’s going to be a fun season,” Bouthillier said.

’Canes happy with progress

The Warwick Vets girls’ indoor track team is 2-0 so far this season and has about 50 girls on its team.

Those are some pretty positive signs for the ’Canes, who just seem to keep improving across the board.

“We’re getting more and more girls out,” head coach Steph Shields said. “Something is going right. Kids come out for it. We’re happy. It’s a good, positive experience. We have kids that have never done a sport before and we’re able to take them and by the end of the season they’re able to run in races and compete.”

Vets edged out Mt. Pleasant 44-41 on Thursday and beat Ponaganset 54-28. There were contributions across the board.

“Lots to look at,” Shields said.

The team’s most well-rounded and top performer is senior Alyssa McCracken, who throws the shot put, sprints and runs on the team’s relays.

“We expect her to do pretty well, especially in the shot put,” Shields said. “We’re hoping that she can definitely qualify there (for states).”

McCracken is joined in the throwing events by a talented group, which makes up Vets’ biggest strength.

Throwing the weight is senior Bria McAloon, sophomores Kayla Bourbon and Hannah Ellis and junior Kim Buchanan. Buchanan threw over 31 feet on Thursday and has a shot at qualifying for states as well.

Senior Cassandra Hodges is also in the mix in the throwing events.

“Weight and shot have pretty much been our strengths,” Shields said.

Vets has been strong in the distance events as well, with sophomore Carlie McPherson leading the charge. She runs the 3,000. Seniors Kaitlyn Johnson and Amber Beech run the 1,500 and 1,000 and Kelsey Gray, another senior, runs the 600.

Senior Victoria Soares is one of the team’s better sprinters.

“We have a good core of some distance, middle-distance runners,” Shields said. “I think that will help our younger kids, bring them along and kind of show them the ropes.”

As of now the ’Canes aren’t filling out all the events, but Shields is hopeful that by the end of the year they’ll have almost everything taken care of.

“I think eventually we’ll be pretty close to being able to fill them all,” Shields said. “Some of the young kids aren’t quite ready to be in a varsity meet.”

And all in all, Vets is excited. High numbers and a willingness to learn and improve make that part easy.

“The good news is that we have girls to try out in different spots,” Shields said. “Our goal is always the same – try to get some qualifiers for states but then always, from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, improve. That’s what we’ve consistently done every year.”


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