Bishop Hendricken delivered a host of big performances to win its 17th consecutive indoor track state championship last year. The Hawks knew exactly what it would take to get past strong squads from La Salle and Chariho, and they did it.
As the Hawks begin a new season, they don’t know what it’ll take to win again and they don’t know exactly how their lineup will look.
But the Hawks do know they like what they’ve seen so far.
Hendricken opened the regular season on Tuesday at the Providence Career & Technical Academy and turned in stand-out performances across the board.
“It’s very early so it’s tough to know,” said head coach Jim Doyle. “At this point, it’s putting people together and seeing what everybody is capable of doing. But what we did tonight is very encouraging.”
The performances are particularly encouraging because they came in a variety of events. That’s a sign that the Hawks could develop into a balanced team.
Over the years, they’ve had different identities while extending their streak. Sometimes, it was the distance corps that led the way. Other times, the field events and the throwing team.
Balance, though, has never been a bad formula.
“We’re pleased,” Doyle said. “We’re just trying to piece things together and see where everybody is.”
Coming off their fourth straight cross country state title – as well as a New England title – the Hawks’ distance runners are primed to do big things. On Tuesday, top runners Michael Potter, Tyler Henseler, Colin Tierney and Connor Doyle focused on the 1,500 and cruised to the top four spots. Senior Mark Vuono also had a good night, and several other runners are looking strong as well.
“We did a hard workout Sunday and that doesn’t line up great for tonight, but they still came out and ran very well,” Doyle said. “The distance guys looked exceptional, especially for this early in the season.”
Elsewhere on the track, the Hawks figure to be stronger in the sprint events than they were last year. Football standout Ryan Brannigan hasn’t been with the team yet, but he’s a returning stand-out. On Tuesday, Billy L’Europa, Alex Perreault and Gary Geisser also posted solid times in the 55-meter dash.
The hurdles were a good event, as well, with senior Kyle O’Connell – who finished third in the state last year – picking up where he left off.
In field events, the Hawks aren’t up to speed yet on the long jump, but senior Jordan Barboza-Simpkins was one of the top performers in the high jump, clearing six feet.
There were also big bright spots in the throws. Senior Reuben Horace – who finished sixth in the weight throw at last year’s state meet – threw 62-9 on Tuesday, better than his state-meet throw last year. John Celona also threw well.
In the shot put, sophomore Nick DeCiantis picked up where he left off after a strong outdoor season last year, and Mike Pecchia also had a good debut.
“We had some great performances in the throws,” Doyle said. “Some of the throws they did tonight were what we were looking for at the end of last year.”
All in all, it was a strong start for the Hawks, and the best news is that there’s a long way to go. Several key competitors are still ramping things up, meaning the Hawks should only get stronger on their quest for their 18th title in a row.
“I don’t know how we couldn’t be encouraged,” Doyle said. “And we’ve still got a few guys from football who aren’t out yet. We’re pleased.”
Titans aim to keep building
Compared with their counterparts on the Toll Gate girls’ team – who haven’t lost a dual-meet since the 1997-98 – the Titans’ boys’ indoor team has had its ups and downs.
But after some struggles in the 2009-10 season, the Titans had a solid campaign last year and finished at 4-4. With one set of dual-meets in the books this year, it looks like the Titans will stay on the upswing.
“The team looks good, and we actually have a pretty good-sized team,” said head coach Jon Deming. “We have about 38 kids on the active roster, so that’s good for us. I think the big thing would be trying to get as many kids qualified for the state meet as we can.”
Last year, while the Titans had some dual-meet success, they didn’t have a single individual qualify for states. Their only entry was their 4x800 relay team.
There’s a lot of potential for the Titans to be a little busier at states this season.
The distance runners are coming off a 9-3 cross country season, which included a berth in the state meet. With senior Joe Frost and sophomore Henry Smithers leading the way, the Titans have a solid group making the move to indoor.
“Coming off cross country, I think they’re really pumped,” Deming said. “They’re excited to be running some shorter, faster stuff. And they’re young. They’re looking ahead and they’re looking to do big things.”
With a year of track under their belts, those young distance runners should be able to make some noise for the Titans.
The sprinters will be trying to follow suit. There isn’t as much experience – several are making their first foray into track – but the Titans have the makings of a solid group. Jose Javier, Junior Rivas, Javier Restrepo and Tom Martella are among the key contributors. Several of the sprinters are also trying their hand in the jumping events.
“We’ve got some pretty fast kids out,” Deming said. “They look good.”
In the throws, the Titans will be led by seniors Cory Duquette, Drew Haxton, Matt Rocheleau and junior Will Downie. New throwing coach Tom Doyle – a former head coach with the Titans – is helping bring the throws along.
“He’s trying to build up the team from there,” Deming said. “The throwing team is in transition but they look good. I think they’re really focused.”
In every area, the goal for the Titans is to improve with each round of dual-meets. Ultimately, Deming would like to see Toll Gate’s upswing continue into the state meet.
“That would be a good goal seeing how last year, we only had a 4x8 team at states for the boys,” Deming said. “It would be good to get some more relays and some individuals in there.”
Pats regroup with solid nucleus
Pilgrim has some strong individuals back from last year’s team, but the overall cast isn’t quite as big as it was last season, when the Pats went 6-2 and had some good performances at the state meet.
As the season got underway Tuesday, though, the Pats weren’t looking in the mirror.
“Our team is definitely not the same as last year,” Mike Daniels said. “We lost some big guys like Andrew Carter, Dillin Alexander, Tim Pruefer. We lost some those heavy-hitter guys who scored big points for us in big meets. But you make do with what you have and we do have some good guys back.”
The goal is to build around them – and their strengths.
Based on personnel, Daniels is putting more of an emphasis on the throws, jumps and relay events this year. That should make the Pats competitive every time out.
“Overall, I think we’ll do OK,” Daniels said. “I don’t think we’ll do as well as last year, but we’re going to run with good spirit and run with team pride. Hopefully that stands out.”
The Pats will be led by a strong core of returning sprinters. They’re team leaders and they’ll shoulder much of the scoring load for the Pats.
Senior Carl Sjogren is the top returner. At last year’s state meet, he finished 14th in the 55-meter dash. Sjogren then built on that with a big outdoor track season that saw him finish fifth in the state in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes.
This winter, Sjogren will run the 55-meter dash and the 300, as well as the 4x200 and 4x400 relays.
“Coming off football, it takes a couple of weeks, but he’ll get there,” Daniels said. “He’s our leader, and he’s a busy guy.”
The other top sprinters are juniors Steve Croft and Derek Daluz, both of whom qualified for outdoor states in the spring.
“We’ve got a good solid sprint team,” Daniels said.
The jumps also look good, with senior Mike Mallozzi leading the way. Mallozzi finished 16th in the long jump last year at states, and on Tuesday, he bested his mark from last season’s state meet.
“He’s improving every day,” Daniels said. “He’ll be right there.”
With several other strong competitors, Daniels is focusing a lot of energy on the jumping events. In addition to Malozzi, the Pats have senior Anthony Souza doing well in the long jump and the high jump. Newcomers Sean St. Jacques and John Zuffoletti are also doing well.
The Pats plan to get some points out of their throwers, as well. Juniors Kevin Conner, Peter Golish and Alex Malm lead the charge.
“My assistant Jason Hudden has been working really well with the throwing guys,” Daniels said. “We’re relying on those guys heavily this year.”
In terms of distance events, the Pats don’t have a lot of depth. They had a solid cross country season, but the multiple events make indoor a different animal for distance runners. Still, Daniels hopes his runners keep working hard. Senior Brian Masse is serving as the distance captain.
Overall, the Pats aren’t the deepest or most-balanced team, but they’ll do their best to make some noise.
“Somebody gives you dough, you make pizza. In that sense, I have some guys who can really fit in and make that pizza kind of taste good and work it so that it’s a decent dinner,” Daniels said. “I’m going to take all my athletes and put them where they fit best and we’ll work from there.”
’Canes working hard
Last year, Warwick Vets fielded its largest indoor team in quite a while, and one of the biggest reasons was the presence of a large freshman class. That group gave the ’Canes a dose of optimism, and it hasn’t faded now that the freshmen are a year older.
“We’re looking pretty good,” said Vets head coach Keith Randall. “We’ve got a lot of sophomores. Over half the team is sophomores, so that’s all the freshmen coming back, and then we added some new guys. Everybody has stayed with it.”
That won’t turn the ’Canes into instant contenders. They lost several of their top individuals from a year ago. Some of their dual-meets will be an uphill battle and they aren’t likely to make a lot of waves at the postseason meets.
But depth is a pretty good starting point – and the ’Canes are taking it from there.
“They’re willing to work hard,” Randall said. “It’s the same thing as every year – my biggest thing is improvement throughout the year. If they’re progressing, that’s great. If we can get some guys to the state meet, that’s always a bonus and if we can win a couple of dual meets, that’s always good too.”
Vets’ top individual will likely be senior thrower Joe Spaziano. As a junior, Spaziano had a solid campaign, placing in the top 15 in both the shot put and the weight throw at the class meet. He just missed qualifying for states, but he’s hoping to get there this year.
“Joe Spaziano is probably one of our best chances to make the states,” Randall said. “He’s been throwing right around 40 and he’s hoping to get into the mid-40’s and see if he can do well in the states.”
Everyone else who competed for Vets in last year’s class meet was lost to graduation, but there are several competitors who could be there this year. Sophomore twins Jeremy and Kyle Morrissette have led the way for the team’s runners.
“They’re both on our relay team and they’ve improved a lot,” Randall said. “They have a lot of potential.”
Senior Bryan O’Mara and sophomore Jon Nordin – both newcomers – have looked good so far and could be contenders in the sprints. The ’Canes have several other newcomers making headway, and their returning sophomores are also showing improvement.
On top of that, everyone is getting a boost from volunteer assistant Brendan Lamboy, a 2004 Vets grad who ran at URI.
“He ran at URI so he’s coming in with some experience and he’s helping out a lot,” Randall said. “We’re trying to push the guys a little harder than we have in the past, and they’re responding to it well.”
The ’Canes will just try to keep moving in the right direction.
“We’re hoping to be able to compete,” Randall said. “We’ll see what we can do. The guys are working hard.”