Nobody wants to be on the team that lets a streak end. Members of the Toll Gate girls’ indoor track team felt the sting Tuesday night. For 14 seasons, the Titans never lost a dual meet. On Tuesday it finally happened. Barrington edged Toll Gate 56-53, handing the program its first loss since the 1997-98 season.
When the final score came through, there were tears, but head coach Norm Bouthillier gathered his team and asked a question.
“I said to them, ‘How many kids had personal bests today?’ Every hand went up,” Bouthillier said. “We had a great day. Barrington just performed out of their heads. I told them, ‘We didn’t lose. Barrington beat us. There’s no shame in that.’”
That sentiment should make the Titans feel better, but it also symbolizes what the streak was really about all these years.
The Titans were building one of the best track traditions in the state. The end of the streak doesn’t mean the end of that.
“It’s been a nice tradition,” Bouthillier said. “I don’t think one loss erases that.”
And it shouldn’t.
The streak started way back in 1998. The team’s current seniors were toddlers.
Many of the runners and throwers from that first team have kids of their own now.
“It’s been a long, long time,” Bouthillier said.
The Titans went 8-0 that first year and 9-0 the year after that. When they went 8-0 and won the Large Schools class championship in 2001, the streak was off and running.
When it reached 10 seasons in 2008, it started to take on a life of its own. It showed up on T-Shirts. At the beginning of every season, the Titans talked about keeping it going.
The last few years, the challenge got tougher. The division the Titans now find themselves amounts to a kind of champions league. There are no pushovers.
“It used to be you had one or two good teams, and against everybody else, you could put new girls in and shuffle things around,” Bouthillier said.
But the Titans got tougher too. The last few years, they’ve fielded some of the best teams in program history and have contended for state championships. They finished third at the state meet in the 2009-10 season.
All the success paved the way for more of it. Numbers held steady and athletic girls always found their way to the track. It never failed – you’d see a fast, athletic freshman on the soccer team in the fall. In the winter, she’d show up on the track, ready to develop into a star.
“It’s been a great thing for the program,” Bouthillier said. “It helped get kids out. Kids in junior high know about the streak. They know, not only do we have success, but we have a lot of fun too.”
The Titans survived some close calls in recent years, and they knew they were in for a few more this season. They held off South Kingstown in December and braced themselves for more challenges in the new year.
Barrington and Pilgrim were the first on the list. The Titans managed to get past their cross-town rivals, but Barrington was too much. The Eagles won seven events and shined in key moments.
“They did some things we didn’t expect,” Bouthillier said. “Credit to Barrington. It is what it is. It was going to happen at some point.”
Bouthillier was much less upset than his team, mostly because he could see the big picture. The Titans had a great meet. Sophomore stand-out Erika Pena delivered the best day of her high school career. Senior captain Haley Moen ran every race she could. There were personal bests across the board.
For the first time in 14 seasons, it just wasn’t enough.
Bouthillier beamed anyway.
“It’s bittersweet to see it end, but I’m more proud of this team than some of our juggernauts,” he said. “We’re young and the girls were nervous. But they rose to the occasion. On paper, we don’t have the big guns that we had last year and we don’t have as much depth. For these girls to even put themselves in position to go undefeated again is awesome.”
Streak or no streak, the tradition continues.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and email@example.com.