If the Bishop Hendricken cross country team performs at this weekend’s state championship like it did at last weekend’s Class A Meet, then the Hawks will almost surely be claiming their fifth straight Rhode Island title.
The problem though, is that so far this season Hendricken hasn’t always run like it did at the class meet, where it had five consecutive runners cross the finish line in places 3-7 and cruised to an easy victory.
The Hawks have still won all their races in the state this year – as they completed their fifth straight undefeated dual meet season – but their times haven’t quite been where they expected them to be, and they’ve struggled in a few national meets.
So even as clear favorites to win this weekend, Hendricken knows that it will have to run one of its better races of the season to finish out in front.
“I think we had a perfect day last Saturday, and that’s what it’s going to take to come back and win the state meet,” head coach Jim Doyle said.
Hendricken’s main competition is also its chief rival, La Salle, and the Rams are a legitimate threat to de-throne the Hawks if the cards fall a certain way.
At the class meet, La Salle finished a distant second to Hendricken, losing 25-57, but the Rams had three runners finish directly behind Hendricken’s top five, as they claimed spots eight, nine and 10. They also had a runner in 13th, a runner in 17th and another in 18th.
It would only take a little bit of movement within both teams’ top five for the results to come out differently.
“I always say this – state championships are never easy,” Doyle said. “Other teams get motivated. La Salle is a very young team. Their goal is certainly to win that state championship.”
And the Rams have every reason to be motivated, as they have already finished ahead of Hendricken once this year. Both teams competed at the Manhattan Invitational on Oct. 13, and La Salle edged out the Hawks by five points and claimed a 10th place finish. Hendricken finished in 11th.
“We didn’t get a good start in that race,” Doyle said. “It was a situation where you had 300 meters to get into the woods. We didn’t get in there quick enough.”
Still, at the end of the day, if the Hawks run to their potential, the rest will take care of itself. Regardless of how things have gone so far, they still have the most top-level depth of any team in the state.
It starts with sophomore Michael Potter, who finished in third place at the Class
Meet with a time of 16:06.87. He hasn’t run as Hendricken’s first runner the entire season, but Doyle thinks the team is better off when Potter is playing that role.
“That was one of the things we had to work hard at, getting him to run in front,” Doyle said. “When he runs there we’re a lot better.”
Finishing behind Potter at the Class Meet were seniors Tyler Henseler and Connor Doyle, junior Colin Tierney and senior Alex Doherty.
But Hendricken’s depth goes beyond those top five. Senior Greg Beaudette finished in 14th place at the Class meet, and junior Collin Manning came in 20th, giving the Hawks strong runners in the six and seven spots as well.
Last season, when Hendricken narrowly edged out Chariho 47-55 to win the state title, Manning came in 15th place, while Beaudette came in 27th.
With the class meet and the state meet coming on back-to-back weekends, teams have a tendency to get a little tired. That’s where having that depth comes in to play.
“Someone like Greg Beaudette, he’s moved up and done it in the past,” Jim Doyle said. “This time of year, having races back to back, it takes its toll on you.”
Also in Hendricken’s favor is that just about everybody on the team has state meet experience from last year, save for Doherty. Henseler finished fifth last season, Tierney was eighth, Doyle was 11th and Potter was 14th.
Those seven runners will have to out-duel La Salle’s seven to get it done again.
The Rams are led by sophomore Jake Grundy, senior Adam Rego, sophomore Michael Stephens, senior Shane Watterson, freshman Matthew Bouthillette and senior Michael Nadeau.
“They have a very young team,” Doyle said. “The last few years young kids have gone there and they’re very athletic and very successful.”
Individually, Cumberland’s Trevor Crawley won the Class A Meet by over 13 seconds, and he’s the odds-on favorite going in. Behind him is Chariho’s Bryce Kelley and then the pack of Hawks and Rams who all could be in the running at the top.
The state meet is scheduled for this Sunday, Nov. 4 at Ponaganset High School.
The girls’ race is at 1:15 p.m., while the boys’ race is an hour later at 2:15.
“You don’t want to get too excited,” Doyle said. “It is the state championship.
Biggest thing I stress is always to work together. Individuals don’t win state championships. It’s teams, and they know that. And they did that last week.
That’s what we’re trying to do this week. That’s the only thing that I stress.”
TG boys’ and girls’ teams qualify; individual Pats, ’Canes do too
Hendricken won’t be the only boys’ team representing Warwick at the state meet on Sunday, as the Toll Gate boys’ team also qualified after a strong performance in the Class B Meet.
The Titans came in fourth place overall with 86 points, behind South Kingstown, Portsmouth and Lincoln.
Toll Gate was led by junior Patrick Rocchio in ninth place, juniors Evan Carly and Brock Massa in 17th and 18th place respectively, Evan Cummiskey in 25th place and Nick Mattioli in 26th.
Junior Alex Pires came in 34th, while senior Ben Dinobile took 42nd.
For Pilgrim, junior Sam Eleuterio and freshman Brandon Lawton both qualified as individuals after strong showings in the Class A Meet. Eleuterio took 36th, while Lawton came in 37th.
Vets also had a qualifier, as junior Ian Anderson surged to a third-place finish in the Class B Meet to make the cut.
On the girls’ side, Toll Gate was impressive in the Class B Meet and qualified as a team for states.
The Titans took fifth overall with 123 points, but had plenty of standout performances. Sophomore Erika Pena out-ran four runners on the final stretch to grab seventh place overall, and she was followed by senior Haley Moen in 21st, junior Danielle Petrangelo in 24th, sophomore Abby Tillotson in 36th, sophomore Jess Cawley in 37th, junior Katherine Lavallee in 38th and senior Elena Chace in 43rd.
Pilgrim will also be represented, as it had two girls qualify as individuals. Senior Natalie Tocco took 27th in the Class A Meet to qualify, while junior Megan Wilks took 48th and made the cut as well.