On the heels of a dominant performance in the class championships, the Bishop Hendricken cross country team was looking for more of the same in Sunday’s state meet at Ponaganset’s Covered Bridge Course.
Head coach Jim Doyle knew it wouldn’t be easy.
“I thought it would be hard to duplicate,” he said. “You put the word ‘state’ in front of the word ‘meet’ and it gets even tougher.”
But he had nothing to worry about.
Hendricken placed all seven of its runners in the top 19 spots – and five in the first 15 – to capture its fifth consecutive state championship. The Hawks tallied 44 points, 20 better than second-place La Salle. In doing so, they became just the third team to win five consecutive state championships, joining the 1969-73 Pilgrim squads and the 1978-83 Hendricken teams.
“I always tell these guys, it’s very hard to win a state championship,” Doyle said. “They knew that and we knew we’d be challenged by La Salle. I told them, ‘Focus on place and don’t worry about times.’ They did their jobs.”
La Salle and East Greenwich finished second and third behind the Hawks, while Cumberland’s Trevor Crawley won the individual title in 15:39.47. Toll Gate placed 16th on the boys’ side.
Barrington won the girls’ title, as the Eagles were paced by individual champion Emma McMillan, a freshman, who won the crown in 18:22.99. Pilgrim’s Natalie Tocco was Warwick’s top finisher in 42nd. The Toll Gate girls finished 16th in the team standings.
For Hendricken, the race marked the first step on what the team hopes will be a long journey. If all goes as planned, it will culminate at Nike Cross Country Nationals.
Sunday, the Hawks cleared the first hurdle.
“The focus was just that we had to do our part,” said senior Connor Doyle. “We knew if we ran what we were supposed to run, we would beat [La Salle]. That’s all we had to do – just do our thing.”
And they did it, with their depth overwhelming the rest of the field. Connor Doyle was the top finisher, taking fourth in 16:06.16. Colin Tierney was right behind him in fifth and Tyler Henseler took seventh.
At that point, only one La Salle runner had crossed the line. Another finished in 11th, but then came a parade of Hawks. Alex Doherty finished 13th and Collin Manning rounded out the scoring with a 15th-place finish. Greg Baudette was right behind him in 16th and Michael Potter took 19th.
Potter had been Hendricken’s top finisher at the class meet. He didn’t have his best day Sunday, but the Hawks’ depth more than made up for it.
“We had guys step up,” Jim Doyle said. “Collin Manning was injured after the class meet and he comes back to get 15th. Greg Beaudette was great. Alex Doherty, a senior who didn’t run last year, did very well. That’s what it’s all about – having those guys come through.”
The Hawks will now turn their attention to New Englands, which will be held on Saturday in Cumberland, Maine.
“One week at a time,” Jim Doyle said. “We’d like to win it. We feel we have a chance, and I also think the La Salle team is good enough to win. I don’t know what the other states are like, but I know we’ve got a strong team. We just have to motivate these guys all over again.”
Two Pilgrim runners were the top boys’ race finishers from Warwick public schools. Freshman Brandon Lawton took 66th in 18:05.40 and junior Sam Eleuterio was just behind him in 68th. Vets’ Ian Anderson finished 79th after a strong finish in the Class B Championship last week.
Toll Gate was the only Warwick school to qualify as a team. The Titans were led by Patrick Rocchio, who finished 88th in 18:27.86. Evan Carley finished 91st, Anthony Hart took 113th, Nick Mattioli finished 115th, Evan Cummiskey finished 122nd, Brock Massa took 127th and John Soares rounded things out in 133rd.
“We had a lot of sophomores, a lot of guys who haven’t been in big meets,” said head coach Norm Bouthillier. “So I was very happy with the way they ran. I thought Nick Mattioli ran really well as a freshman. He’s got a lot of potential. I can’t remember the last time I had a freshman in the state meet.”
On the girls’ side, Tocco – who won the Warwick city championship earlier this season – led all Warwick finishers again at states. The senior finished 42nd with a time of 20:48.83. Pilgrim’s Megan Wilks also competed and finished 99th in 22:35.53.
Toll Gate took 16th, with sophomore Erika Pena leading the way. She finished 58th in a time of 21:12.63. Haley Moen took 72nd, Debbie Jessop finished 102nd, Abby Tillotson was 110th, Jess Cawley finished 114th, Danielle Petrangelo took 119th and Katherine Lavallee took 120th.
“They ran better last week, but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” said Toll Gate coach Jon Deming. “They get hyped up to make the state meet. That was our goal, and they came out and ran well last week. But we still had some good performances today.”