The four-time defending state champion Bishop Hendricken cross country team is taking it one meet at a time, but it’s well aware of just how good it can be.
The Hawks have the potential to be one of the very best – and not just in the state.
Various national services have ranked Hendricken as high as seventh in the United States, while others have ranked them as far back as the 20’s.
Whichever poll is the most accurate, though, the Hawks are still considered to be one of the elite teams anywhere. If that’s any indication, Hendricken is in line to win its 21st state title in program history and to shoot for even greater heights.
But for now, it’s all about staying healthy, taking care of business and getting everybody ready for the meets that matter most at the end of the season.
“These guys know that rankings mean nothing,” Hendricken head coach Jim Doyle said. “It’s a long season. Take it one meet at a time.”
Last season, Hendricken was a co-favorite with Chariho entering the state meet, and the race came down to the wire. The Chargers put four of the first six men across the finish line, but Hendricken’s depth won out in an eight-point win.
The week after, the Hawks put forth another impressive performance and easily captured the New England title with a 56-point win over the second-place team.
Every contributor off that team is back except for one – the graduated Mark Vuono – and there are a few others runners who have stepped up to provide even more depth at the top.
Running in the No. 1 spot right now is sophomore Michael Potter. He came in 14th last year at states before taking 31st at New Englands.
“He’s worked very hard,” Doyle said of Potter. “He’s probably the hardest trainer on the team, out of everybody.”
In second is junior Colin Tierney, who was the Hawks’ top finisher at New Englands with a 20th place showing. He also took eighth in the state, good for second on the team.
Numbers 3 and 4 are seniors Connor Doyle and Tyler Henseler. Henseler was Hendricken’s best runner at states with a fifth-place finish, and he also came in 45th at New Englands. Doyle ran to an 11th-place at states.
Though Chariho has two of its top runners back, and La Salle has some strong runners as well, Jim Doyle believes that all four of his top guys could contend for an individual state title this year.
“Tyler Henseler was one of the top individuals last year, and we’re looking at him to be maybe our fourth guy,” Doyle said. “Michael’s improved. Connor Doyle has beaten some of those guys before. Colin Tierney could contend for the individual state championship. Those four guys could have a chance of winning the state championship.”
Running at No. 5 currently is a newcomer to the top group, senior Alex Doherty.
“He hasn’t been on the varsity team,” Doyle said. “He’s finally cracked it. He ran with those guys the other day, and he ran 16:30 for a 5k. He’s looking good.”
In the next few spots are some familiar faces and some fresh ones. Junior Collin Manning and senior Greg Beaudette are back after contributing last year, with Manning taking 15th at states and Beaudette grabbing 27th.
Also in the mix is junior Patrick Gower and sophomore Grant Gauthier, as they’re both pushing for varsity time.
On Tuesday, in the first meet of the season, Hendricken looked in strong form, as it put the first 10 runners across the finish line while running against Cranston East, Cranston West and Johnston.
Even with Henseler and Doherty not running, the Hawks cruised to 15-50 victories over all three teams. Potter took first place, with Beaudette in second, Tierney in third, Doyle in fourth, Manning in fifth, Gauthier in sixth and Gower in seventh.
It’s business as usual right now for the Hawks, and that very well could mean another dominant season.
“Knock on wood, at this point in the season, anything can happen,” Jim Doyle said. “We’re taking it one meet at a time.”
Titans looking for class title
Last year, the Toll Gate boys’ cross country team put together one of its strongest meets of the season when it truly counted, rallying to a second-place finish in the Class B Meet.
The winner of that meet was Barrington, which has moved up to Class A for this season. With the Eagles gone, and with five of its seven runners back – and a couple others stepping right in – the Titans feel like they’re now the team to beat in the class.
They want to take the crown.
“Our main goal this year is to try to win the class championship,” head coach Norm Bouthillier said. “Last year we were second to Barrington, and Barrington moved up to Class A because of their enrollment. I think it’s very realistic. That’s our goal.”
Toll Gate began its dual meet season this past Monday, where it easily beat Juanita Sanchez and Hope, but was edged out 26-30 by Coventry.
That wasn’t the least bit disconcerting, though, because of the team’s approach. While it doesn’t want to lose its dual meets, it isn’t focusing a ton on how they turn out.
The Titans want to be peaking, and be both physically and mentally prepared, for the end of the season.
“Our goal is to do well at the state meet and the class meet,” Bouthillier said. “We’re not that worried about the dual meets. It’s kind of hard to run hard every Monday then run hard at the end of the season.”
Toll Gate graduated only two contributing seniors in Brandon Golda and Joe Frost. They were sizeable losses, but others are primed to step in.
And the Titans have the luxury of having some of their top runners back in the fold. Leading that group is junior Henry Smithers, who returns after a sophomore campaign as the team’s top runner.
Smithers took seventh at the class meet last year and 53rd at states, and Bouthillier expects a step forward this season.
“I think if he got top 20 [at states], I’d be very happy and so would he,” Bouthillier said. “He’s got potential.”
Behind Smithers are junior Pat Rocchio and senior Austin Medeiros. Those two are battling it out for the second and third sports, and are looking to become factors on the state scene as well.
The rest of the group is made up of senior Ben Dinoble, and juniors Brock Massa, Alex Pires and Evan Carley.
“They all came off a great track season,” Bouthillier said. “They’ve been doing their mileage all summer. They all went to cross country camp. They’re pretty focused. They’re not going to let a dual meet get them unfocused.”
The team’s main competition at the class meet will likely be South Kingstown and Lincoln – the two teams that finished just behind Toll Gate a year ago – but Bouthillier is confident that his group can get the job done.
The Titans’ next dual meet is Monday vs. Johnston and East Greenwich at Goddard park at 3:30 p.m.
’Canes look to continue upward trend
Warwick Vets feels like it’s on the right track, and with only one senior on the roster, the ’Canes expect to keep moving in the right direction for a while.
For now, they’re just trying to keep it rolling.
“The kids worked really hard over the summer and came back in great shape,” said head coach Scott Bayha. “The future looks bright, and I think we’re going to be better this year than we were last year.”
The ’Canes have improved steadily the last few years. After going 0-9 in 2008, they went 2-8 in 2009, 3-10 in 2010 and 4-8 last year. They’re hoping to continue at that pace, and the early returns have been positive.
Vets ran well at the Injury Fund event, notching personal bests across the board. In Monday’s season-opening meet, the ’Canes lost to East Greenwich but beat Classical and Mt. Pleasant to get off to a 2-1 start.
“We have decent numbers and we ran very well in the Injury Fund,” Bayha said. “All of our guys ran P.R.’s by at least two minutes, which is awesome.”
Vets is led by juniors Ian and Evan Anderson. Fellow juniors Nick Thompson, Jonathan Nordin, Dean Bussick and Dave Valladolid are also running well, as is senior Kyle Waters.
That group gives Vets a solid core.
“We’re running as a group,” Bayha said. “Last year, we had one boy who ran out ahead and then a group behind him. This year, everybody’s together. They’ve all caught up with each other. That helps the team scoring and also morale.”
And the ’Canes hope that paves the way for more success. While they aren’t likely to catch powerhouses like Hendricken and East Greenwich at the top of the Suburban Division, steady improvement could put them firmly in the middle of the pack and in contention at the class meet.
For now, they’ll keep taking the right steps and see where it takes them.
“Last year, we were around .500 and I’d like to be a little better than that,” Bayha said. “I think it’s within reach.”
Front-line runners lead Pilgrim
The Pilgrim boys’ cross country team got its season off to a good start on Monday, winning two out of its three dual meet races and getting some strong individual performances.
The Pats are hoping it was a precursor for a big season. There isn’t the most depth, but there are some talented runners at the top who could set a fast pace.
And the numbers are better than they’ve been, which means that if some of the younger runners progress, depth could take care of itself.
“I think the team itself is bigger then it has been over the years,” Pilgrim head coach Mike Daniels said. “I find that’s a good thing, when you have more people.
I’m excited. I’m pretty excited.”
Pilgrim went 6-6 last year and graduated one of its top runners in Brian Masse. But it returns just about everybody else, and it also picked up a marquee freshman who should lead the charge.
Brandon Lawton was a pleasant surprise, and he has emerged as the team’s top runner thus far in his first season.
“He’s really kind of stepped up,” Daniels said. “He came in as a great runner already. Now I’m just building him up and giving him some stability to get him stronger.”
Behind Lawton are returning seniors Cameron Devine and Mark Lenz, currently running at No. 2 and No. 3. Lenz came in 50th in the Class A meet last year, while Devine came in 54th.
In fourth is junior Sam Eleuterio – who came in 53rd at the class meet last season – with sophomores Daniel Barclay and Kyle Buonfiglio and junior Andrew Allen all competing for the next three spots.
Several others, like senior Steve Croft and sophomore Brandon Paiva, are on the team with the hopes of gaining some stamina for the track seasons.
Just about everybody is in good shape.
“Guys ran over the summer,” Daniels said. “It’s good when they come in and they’ve actually run. Hopefully we’ll have a pretty good year. It all comes down to how they’ll react to racing.”
On Monday, Lawton was the team’s top finisher in 16th, while Eleuterio took 19th and Devine took 31st.
It was a good start. Now, the Pats are focusing on improving.
“All three of my top guys are going to run similar times,” Daniels said. “They’ll all run in the 17’s, we’re shooting for low 17’s. I’d like to see one of the top guys really make him work harder.”
Pilgrim is aiming for the top three in its division, which will be difficult with teams like Hendricken, Coventry and East Greenwich in the fold, as well as Cranston West. But even if that doesn’t happen, the Pats still want to qualify for the state meet.
That would be a big step forward for the program.
“My goal is to get these guys to states,” Daniels said. “We missed it by Cranston East and Cranston West last year. We’ll see what happens.”