Its streak of 17 consecutive indoor track state championships ended last year. All season, Bishop Hendricken focused on getting it back.
On Saturday, the Hawks delivered.
Thanks to solid performances in key events and a huge day from sophomore Lee Moses, Hendricken surged past a strong Classical team to recapture the state title at the Providence Career & Technical Academy. The Hawks tallied 75 points to out-pace the hard-charging Purple, who finished with 65.
“From day one, when indoor started, the goal for the whole team – for the distance runners, sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers, throwers – was to get that team title back,” said Hendricken assistant coach Dan Brennan. “For these guys to put it all together on the same day and have all of them do well is awesome.”
Pilgrim junior Becca O’Donnell led the way for Warwick schools on the girls’ side with a first-place finish in the long jump. Destinee Barrette added a pair of medals in the weight throw and the shot, helping power Pilgrim to sixth place, its best showing at states since 1997. Classical and La Salle tied for the girls’ title, becoming the first co-champions in the history of the indoor track state meet.
For Hendricken, the day got off to a good start. The 4x800 relay team of Alex Doherty, Jared Boulanger, Tom Grizzetti and Avery Ingegneri – a group without much experience – out-did its seeding time by more than two seconds to finish third.
“They set the tone,” Brennan said.
But the Hawks still had a lot of work to do. They didn’t score in either of the weight events, which put added pressure on their runners. And Classical would go on to get big points from standout Derek Jackson, who won the 55-meter dash and the 300, and from three hurdlers who piled up 22 points.
“We lost it last year and honestly, it didn’t look like we were going to be able to pull it out this year,” said Hendricken head coach Jim Doyle. “Dan and I sat down figuring out points, and we thought maybe the most 59 points. We knew we would have to have an outstanding meet to get to 70 points and that’s what it would take to beat Classical. Classical was superb. They had a great meet. We had to be just as good.”
The Hawks were.
On the track, they turned in their biggest performance in the 3,000, where Colin Tierney took second, Connor Doyle placed third and Tyler Henseler took fifth. That was good for 16 points.
"We loaded the 3,000,” Jim Doyle said. “We decided to go real early and try to build the lead. Those guys came up big for us.”
In the 4x200, the Hawks were seeded first and the took care of business, with Moses, Alex Perreault, Power Kanga and John Cute teaming up for first place.
Perreault added a second-place finish in the 300, Connor Doyle took fourth in the 1,500, Ben Murphy picked up big points with a fourth-place finish in the high jump, Power Kanga finished fourth in the 55 and Marcus Swift took sixth in the 600.
Then there was Moses.
After running anchor on the winning 4x200 team, Moses grabbed third in the 55. With Hendricken leading by five going into the 4x400 relay – the final track event – Moses ran anchor again and teamed with Perreault, Romario Rousseau and Matt Lombardi to finish third.
But the biggest moment for Moses had already happened, without many people noticing. The long jump hadn’t been scored yet because a few competitors still needed to finish up. Moses, who had jumped 22-02.25, was the last man standing when all was said and done. The first-place finish gave the Hawks 10 more points, which ended up being their final cushion.
“Lee was unbelievable,” Doyle said. “For a sophomore to be able to put on a performance like that was incredible.”
Moses had come up big for the Hawks earlier in the week in the class championship. On a bigger stage, he came through again. He was responsible for 16 points by himself and 32 with the relays factored in.
“Me being a sophomore, one of the youngest kids on the team, the seniors just push me to do my best every day,” Moses said. “It means a lot for me to help them win. They deserve it.”
Perreault also had a huge day for the Hawks, with the second place in the 300 and two strong relay performances.
All in all, the Hawks were back where they wanted to be.
“We wanted it really bad this year,” Moses said. “We just pushed each other and we were on each other all the time. It feels great.”
Pilgrim’s Steve Croft was the top performer among Warwick public school boys. He grabbed third in the 300 and fifth in the 55, while teaming with Derek Daluz, Christian White and Brandon Paiva to get a sixth-place medal in the 4x200 relay. Teammate Dylan Gardner was just outside the medals in the weight throw, finishing seventh. The Pats totaled nine points for 15th place.
Toll Gate was led by Henry Smithers, who took fifth in the 1,000. The Titans finished 21st overall. Warwick Vets did not score at the meet, but did have several qualifiers. John Nordin took 15th in the 300 and was 21st in the preliminaries of the 55. Jeremy Morrissette added a 16th in the 600.
O’Donnell leads big day for Pilgrim girls
O’Donnell has had success on the big stage before. As a sophomore last year, the Pilgrim standout took fourth in the long jump at indoor states and followed that up with a fifth at the outdoor state meet.
Based on that experience, she had reason to be hopeful.
Based on this year, she had reason to be confident, too.
“I felt like I was right where I needed to be at exactly the right time,” she said.
She was right.
O’Donnell’s jump of 17-10.00 in the finals was the best of the day. Prout standout Karly Gregory, last year’s outdoor state champion, was second with a jump of 17-07.50. Cassie Roberge of Mount St. Charles, the top seed, took third with a best of 17-07.00.
“I was hoping for first,” O’Donnell said.
Before the long jump finals, O’Donnell had to run the preliminaries of the 55-meter dash. She finished 12th there and had to hustle back to the long jump.
But she wasn’t complaining.
“I think doing the dash before actually helped me,” she said. “I needed to just get my nerves out and clear my mind.”
And it worked. O’Donnell is Pilgrim’s first indoor track state champion in several years.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said.
O’Donnell’s performance was part of an impressive showing for the Patriots, who placed sixth with 17 points. The Pats had finished seventh last year, but hadn’t gotten to sixth since 1997.
Barrette also had a strong showing, taking fifth in the weight throw and sixth in the shot put. Sophomore Melanie Brunelle added a fourth-place finish in the high jump and she was just out of the medals in the long jump, where she took seventh.
Toll Gate finished 25th in the girls’ meet, with Erika Pena leading the charge. The sophomore took sixth in the hurdles and finished in a tie for sixth in the high jump. The Titans’ 4x800 relay team of Jess Cawley, Nora Hall, Katherine Lavallee and Elena Chace was one spot away from a medal, with a seventh-place finish.