After seeing a 17-year state title streak end two years ago, Bishop Hendricken reclaimed the top spot last year thanks to big days from some young stars, a solid sprinting team and a steady distance squad.
A very similar crew will be looking to start a new streak in 2014. The Hawks return several of their top performers across a variety of events, and they’re optimistic about how they’ll stack up when all is said and done in February.
“It’s early and it’s hard to tell exactly where we are,” said head coach Jim Doyle. “We’re just getting all our guys from football and we’ve only had one meet. But we’ve got a good bunch of guys. I feel we have a very good team.”
The Hawks have been challenged consistently the last few years – from Classical making a run last year to Chariho knocking them off the year before. There may be other threats lurking this year, but for now the Hawks are just focused on getting their best squad together.
If things play out well, they’ll be firmly in the mix.
In a reversal of typical Hendricken teams, the sprint corps may lead the way. Juniors Lee Moses and Power Kanga and senior John Cute lead a deep group with a lot of potential.
Moses was the hero of last season’s state title run, with his first-place finish in the long jump providing the decisive points. He also placed third in the 55-meter dash and teamed with Kanga, Cute and the graduated Alex Perreault to win the 4x200 relay.
“Lee is unbelievable,” Doyle said. “He was the MVP of the whole state meet last year. He’s the workhorse behind a very solid sprint team.”
Moses, Kanga and Cute are all coming off football season, and only Kanga participated in last week’s season-opening meet. But when everybody’s up to speed, the Hawks expect to be strong in the dash, the 300, the 4x200 relay, the 4x400 relay and the long jump.
In the absence of Moses and Cute, the Hawks had some solid performances from their other sprinters in the season opener. Ronnie Gaynor and Nick Stravato went one-two in the 55-meter dash and Chris Cambio won the 300 meters. Kanga, Gaynor, Stravato and Nate Gyampo won the 4x200 relay.
“We have some guys with experience,” Doyle said. “They’re an exciting group.”
The distance team is coming off a cross country state title in the fall season. The Hawks edged La Salle for that crown and may play second fiddle to the Rams in several distance events this winter. But they still expect to contend. Cross country state champ Colin Tierney – who finished second in the 3,000 at indoor states last season – leads the way. Michael Potter, Collin Manning are veteran contributors, while younger runners like Michael Kiernan, Avery Ingegneri, Jared Boulanger, Dom Parlato, Grant Gauthier and Tom Grizzetti will make a big impact as well.
“I think Colin Tierney is the best distance runner in the state,” Doyle said. “Then we have a lot of supporting cast, up-and-coming guys who will have an impact.”
The Hawks also have a standout in the high jump. Junior Ben Murphy placed fourth at indoor states last year.
In the throws, the Hawks will be looking to make waves after getting shut out of the medals at last season’s state meet. Senior Alex Cerbo threw 49-01.25 in the shot put last week and figures to lead the charge for an emerging group.
“I was impressed with a throw like that on day one,” Doyle said. “Hopefully, we’ll score some points in the throws.”
All in all, the Hawks figure to score a lot of points – and see where they land.
“It’s going to take a great effort, but we’re certainly capable,” Doyle said.
Hurricanes on the move
Warwick Vets had modest success last season, but its 3-4-1 dual-meet record was actually the program’s best in six years. With most of the key contributors back from that team, the ’Canes are hoping to keep moving in a positive direction.
“We have a nice mix with upperclassmen and underclassmen,” said assistant coach Dan Robinson. “We’re not top heavy. We have pretty good numbers and we’d like to get up around 40. If we have 40 kids and over .500 record, that would be a success.”
The ’Canes had two competitors qualify for the state meet last season and both are back in the fold. John Nordin made it to states in the 55-meter dash and the 300, while Jeremy Morrissette qualified in the 300. Return trips for them, plus a few new tickets would be positive.
“We want to get as many guys to states as we can,” said head coach Keith Randall.
Kyle Morrissette joins Nordin and brother Jeremy Morrissette in the sprinting events. The Morrissettes also do hurdles on the side. Jeremy won the 300 in last week’s season-opening match-up with West Warwick and Cranston East.
The ’Canes also have a few standouts in throwing events. Junior Frank Merlino – a solid outdoor track performer who’s new to indoor – won the shot put last week. Senior Brian Schofield won the weight throw. Junior Steven Paine placed third in the weight throw.
Newcomer Jacob Isaac, a sophomore, will be a big contributor in several events. He competed in the high jump, long jump and hurdles last week.
“He’s got a lot of potential,” Randall said. “He’s 6’4, real athletic.”
Then there’s the distance corps. Many of the runners were part of the Vets cross country team that authored the program’s best season in years this fall. Led by Ian Anderson, Dean Bussick, Chris Smith and Dave Valladolid, the distance runners will be looking for similar success on the track.
“Trying to translate that to indoor track can be tough,” Robinson said. “Hopefully, they can bring a little stability into the distance crew.”
The ’Canes are 1-1 so far thanks to a split in last week’s opener. Vets lost to West Warwick but beat Cranston East.
“It’s early,” Randall said. “I’m hoping they’ll do well.”
Titans build around distance
Toll Gate went 7-1 in dual meets last winter and sent three individuals plus two relays to the state meet.
Replicating that success will be difficult.
The Titans have a strong group of distance runners but not much else, thanks to the graduation of several key contributors. They’ll make the best of the situation by focusing on those distance runners, but as a result, the season will be more individual results than team goals.
“The goal is basically just getting guys qualified for states,” said head coach Jon Deming. “Last year we had a pretty good team. We graduated Tom Martella and Junior Rivas, basically our whole sprint corps. We didn’t have a big turnout for freshmen so it’s tough.”
The distance corps is led by seniors Alex Pires, Brock Massa and Patrick Rocchio and junior Anthony Hart. Also in the mix are juniors Daniel Underwood and Justin Gorman, sophomores Garrett Tarczuk, Nikolas Poulios and Robert Hall and freshmen Marcus Alexander and Tarek Theberge.
The veterans in that group will be pushing for states in individual events or at least the 4x800 relay.
“We’re going to run a pretty good 4x8 and that’s one of our big goals – get to the state meet with those guys,” Deming said.
In last week’s meet against Cranston West and Smithfield, the Titans got a first-place finish from Pires in the 3,000. Massa took second in the 300 and Underwood placed second in the 600.
The Titans have a few young throwers, led by freshman Derek Penta.
The Titans lost to Cranston West but beat Smithfield to start off 1-1.
“The dual meets, we’re really just training for the big meets, the class meet, the division meet, the state meet,” Deming said. “Hopefully, the guys run well.”
Patriots starting fresh
The last few seasons for the Pilgrim boys’ team have been defined by standout performers in sprints and throws and a solid supporting cast.
The supporting cast takes center stage this year.
With the team’s best sprinters and throwers gone to graduation, the Pats are focusing on building a team and nurturing the next generation of stars.
“The team has got a lot of work ahead of itself,” said head coach Mike Daniels. “Weight-wise we’re doing well, but running, we lost a lot of guys to graduation. We’re young and we’re trying to build a champion out of each person, almost – developing them as runners, understanding the sport.”
The Pats lost sprinting standouts Steve Croft and Derek Daluz to graduation, along with throwers Dylan Gardner, Peter Golish and Kevin Conner. They were the team’s only state-meet qualifiers in individual events last year.
In their absence, the team’s most experienced runners are senior Sam Eleuterio and junior Brandon Paiva. Eleuterio has been a top cross country performer for several years and started his senior indoor season with a seventh-place finish in the 1,500 against East Greenwich and Bishop Hendricken. Paiva, who was part of a state-meet placing 4x200 relay team last year, will anchor the sprints.
In Wednesday’s meet, the Pats also had senior Aaron Edmonds and juniors Brandon Longtin, Joe Chehy, Conner Devine and Daniel Barclay in the sprints. Chehy and Sam Schoepfer ran the 600, while junior Andrew Picard, sophomore Chris Cahill and freshman Joe Tocco joined Eleuterio in distance events.
The throwing team doesn’t have as much high-level experience as last year’s group but is deep once again.
“We had some excellent throwers who graduated last year but they passed the torch really well,” said assistant coach Jason Huddon. “We have some talent coming through, we have numbers and we have enthusiasm.”
Senior Dan Johnston finished fifth in the shot put and third in the weight throw to lead the way Wednesday. Juniors Dylan Cote, Devin Ramos, Joe Borges, Lukas Fontaine and Jacob Yang are also contributing.
The Pats had a tough draw out of the gate with the match-up against East Greenwich and Hendricken, and they dropped both. They’ll look for improvements as the year goes on.
“We don’t have superstars, but we have numbers,” Daniels said. “We have guys who want to contribute and want to learn the spot. We’re going to have fun with what we have and develop something good in time.”