Over the years, Bishop Hendricken has delivered a host of big performances on the cross country course at Ponaganset High School.
On Sunday, the Hawks made history.
With individual champion Colin Tierney leading the way, the Hawks edged La Salle for the team title and became the first school in Rhode Island cross country history to win six consecutive state championships.
With former Hawks looking on, the legacy continued.
“It feels great,” Tierney said. “Individually, it was great to go out there and finally have all the work pay off, but the team championship means 100 times more to me. We’ve been fighting from behind since the start of the season. We weren’t projected to be even close to La Salle, so it feels great to go out there and pull it off.”
The Hawks beat La Salle 37-42, with Michael Potter, Tom Grizzetti and Collin Manning joining Tierney in the top 10. Warwick Vets senior Ian Anderson was the top boys’ finisher from Warwick public schools in 47th place and he led the ’Canes to 17th in their first state meet since 2001. Toll Gate finished 12th. On the girls’ side, Toll Gate’s Erika Pena was the top Warwick finisher in 32nd place, and her Titans took 11th.
Hendricken’s title was part of a wild day at the head of the pack. Both team titles were decided by five points or less – La Salle edged Barrington in the girls’ race – and a course record went down for the second straight week on the girls’ side. Barrington’s Emma McMillan won the title in 17:42.87.
The Hawks were just glad the fireworks didn’t include a new boys’ champ. La Salle placed five runners in the top 13, but Hendricken was a step ahead with four runners and got a solid 18th-place finish from fifth runner Dominic Parlato to seal the five-point win.
The Hawks had beaten La Salle by four points at last week’s class championship, and they knew they were in for more of the same on Sunday.
“It was the same as the class meet – we could win or we could lose it because La Salle was right there,” said Hendricken head coach Jim Doyle. “We talked about that. We were a little bit off last week and we needed to be better this week.”
Tierney, a senior and a regular in the state meet top 10 throughout his career, set the stage for the Hawks by winning his first individual title. While he ran 17 seconds slower than his winning class meet time from the week before, he still finished five seconds ahead of La Salle’s Jack Salisbury in 15:49.01.
“Colin was unbelievable under a lot of pressure,” Doyle said. “Being the favorite is not easy.”
Tierney was just focused on the team goal. In the process, he became the first Hendricken state champ since Jake Sienko in 2009. He’s the 11th cross country champion in school history.
“I basically took it from the gun,” Tierney said. “My coach wanted me to get the one spot for the team, and I went out there and did that. I was a little tired, but I just had to fight through it.”
Potter, Tierney’s junior teammate, was headed for second place before Salisbury edged him out at the finish line. It was still a big performance by Potter, who finished in 15:54.55, more than 30 seconds faster than his class meet time.
“Michael Potter went in with a more relaxed race plan and did very well,” Doyle said. “He came up big.”
While La Salle had the second and fourth-place finishers, the Hawks got their next two runners in ahead of any Rams. Grizzetti finished sixth in 16:15.51 and Manning out-did his class-meet time by seven seconds to finish ninth.
Those finishes were more impressive considering that Grizzetti and Manning were running in JV races when the season began as they rehabbed injuries.
“Collin and Tom weren’t running indoor and outdoor last year because of injuries,” Doyle said. “They were racing JV races a couple of months ago.”
La Salle’s Jake Grundy, Dan Paiva and Chris Notarianni finished 11th, 12th and 13th to keep the pressure on the Hawks, but Parlato delivered. The sophomore used a strong finishing kick to rise to 18th in 16:45.42. Had he finished just six spots lower as the fifth man – 10 seconds on the clock – the Rams would have won the title.
“Dominic Parlato stepped up when it really counted at the end of the race,” Doyle said. “He was in 22nd or 23rd place. Moving up to 18th made the difference.”
Avery Ingegneri ran sixth for the Hawks in 24th place and Grant Gauthier finished 64th.
The five-point margin is the second-closest in Hendricken’s run of titles. The Hawks beat La Salle by two points in 2010.
“We knew coming in here, if they walked away with it, we would congratulate them and be happy,” Tierney said. “They’re a great team. If we ran this race again, they could beat us. It just happened that we beat them today.”
The Hawks and Rams may find themselves near the top of the standings again in two weeks, when they travel to Manchester, N.H., for the New England championships. Hendricken has won two New England titles in a row.
“It’s the same scenario, La Salle’s going to be there, some strong teams from Connecticut will be there,” Doyle said. “We know we might have a chance. It’ll be interesting. We’ll try to do our best. I like it because we ran the course earlier this year. That’s always a plus.”
Anderson led the way for Warwick Vets on Sunday, just as he has all season. The senior finished 47th in 17:33.19, capping a strong cross country career with a time that was 32 seconds faster than his class meet time.
Chris Smith finished 101st, John Nordin 112th, Dave Valladolid 126th, Evan Anderson 128th, Jacob Pikul 131st and Dean Bussick 140th.
“I was worried they would just be happy to be here, but they didn’t do that,” said head coach Scott Bayha. “They still ran hard.”
The state meet appearance finished off the best cross country season for the Vets boys in many years. With Vets potentially being re-purposed as a junior high, the finish was even more special.
“I think it meant a lot this year,” Bayha said. “With the school, I know there was a lot of stress and pressure. You feel like ‘This is it.’ Everybody – freshmen to senior – this might be it. They ran P.R.’s last week just to get here and then did it again today. I couldn’t be happier as a coach.”
Toll Gate was led by senior Alex Pires, who was the team’s top performer all year. He finished 66th in 17:51.82. Evan Cummiskey was next in 77th, Nick Mattioli finished 86th, Patrick Rocchio finished 89th, Brock Massa was 99th, Ryan Viti finished 103rd and Brad Meunier finished 114th.
“Overall, they ran well,” said Toll Gate coach Norm Bouthillier. “Individually, some ran better than last week, some ran a little worse, but not bad. I was pretty happy and they seem upbeat. We had a great season.”
Pilgrim did not qualify as a team, but senior Sam Eleuterio was the second Warwick schools finisher. He took 54th in 17:38.69. Teammate Brandon Lawton finished 108th.
On the girls’ side, Pena once again was Warwick’s top performer. After winning the Class B championship last week, the junior ran three seconds faster to finish in 20:21.19, good for 32nd.
“She went out pretty quick and she ran a little bit faster,” said Titans coach Jon Deming. “She was looking to make a little bit of a bigger leap, but some days you have it and some days you don’t. She ran a great race last week and she still ran a personal best today.”
The Titans were the only Warwick girls’ team to qualify and they finished 11th, just two points out of 10th. Jess Cawley ran second for the Titans in 67th with a 30-second improvement on last week. Katherine Lavallee finished 92nd, Morgan Dugan took 95th, Christina Abramson finished 98th and Debbie Jessop finished 104th.
“Today, this was kind of like the dessert,” Deming said. “We made state meet, that was our goal. Today, we just wanted to run well and see what we could do.”
Competing as an individual, Pilgrim freshman Bryanna Mullin delivered a strong performance for the second straight week. A top-30 finisher in Class A, Mullin finished 55th on Sunday in 21:23.51. She was the fifth-best freshman in the race.