BURRILLVILLE â€“ The instructions were simple.
With the more-important class and state meets coming up in the next few weeks, Smithfield High coach Joe Bennett didnâ€™t want his runners to go all-out at Thursdayâ€™s fifth annual Bronco Invitational.
Star runner Liam Hillery was told to use the race as a tempo run. As for the remaining members on his squad â€“ â€śI basically told all of our guys that I didnâ€™t want them to go past the threshold,â€ť Bennett said. â€śI didnâ€™t want them reaching so deep to outkick someone today and run their reserves down. They kind of all had orders to run comfortable â€“ hard but comfortable.â€ť
Running â€śhard but comfortableâ€ť during Thursdayâ€™s statewide meet that attracted more than 700 runners to Burrillville Middle School, the Sentinels ran away with the team title, defeating second-place Exeter/West Greenwich, 65-97. Cumberland was fifth with 110 points.
Smithfield had its top four runners crack 17-minutes for the five-kilometer distance, led by an eighth-place finish from senior Brian Musard, who clocked a time of 16 minutes, 19 seconds. Hillery, a senior, was next across the line in ninth at 16:33.1.
Cranston West senior Robert Allen copped individual honors with a course-record time of 15:27.79. North Providence senior Alex Gallo was second at 15:37.
â€śI am thrilled with the way the kids ran today,â€ť Bennett said. "I am very happy for Brian (Musard). He knocked 34 seconds from his time last year, which is significantâ€¦Obviously Liam went out and ran 16:30-something. He ran very comfortable and thatâ€™s what we wanted out of him. He had an extra race in him (at the New Balance Ocean State Invitational) where he had to run hard.â€ť
Comprising the scoring for Smithfield, which two weeks ago completed an unbeaten 11-0 dual-meet season by copping the Northern Division title, was Musard, Hillery, sophomore Ryan Pagliaro (12th, 16:47.2), senior Ryan Gerlach (14th, 16:47.2) and senior Zack Chadwick (27th, 17:25.12).
For Pagliaro and Grelach, it was their first time under 17 minutes.
â€śItâ€™s a big barrier to break 17 minutes,â€ť Bennett said. â€śI am thrilled that they got to experience what that feels like.â€ť
The area was well-represented among the lead runners. The first area harrier was Cumberland junior Matt Sutcliffe, a sixth-place finisher with a personal-best 16:14.9 clocking. St. Raphael Academy junior Robert Parker was right behind in seventh with a time of 16:15.3.
Sutcliffe took a more conservative approach than how he ran this past Saturday at the Brown University Northeast Cross-Country Championships. In that race, he was third at a half mile and eventually faded to 29th with a time of 17:08.
He was 5:09 at the mile mark at the Bronco meet.
â€śToday, I tried to hold back a little,â€ť he said. â€śI guess it helped.â€ť
In the girlsâ€™ meet, Cranston West easily took the team crown with a 55-131 win over the runner-up Prout School. The Falcons had a 1-2 finish from twin sisters and sophomores Michaela and Alexis Hackett. Michaela sizzled to a course record of 18:46, while her sibling was timed in 19:03.3
The areaâ€™s best placement was turned in by Burrillville junior Anna Dumais, who toured the course in a school mark of 20:18.9, good for fifth overall. Ponagansetâ€™s Casey McGrath was seventh at 20:21.9 and Mount St. Charlesâ€™ Lauren Deguire was 11th with a time of 20:43.6.
As a team, the host Broncos placed an impressive third in the field of 24 teams with 145 points. Sophomore Danielle Dumais (15th, 20:53.8), sophomore Morgan Allen (21st, 21:08.1), sophomore Lizzie Rogers (50th, 22:43.7) and junior Cassidy Bowers (56th, 23:38) also scored for the Broncos.
â€śWe did pretty darn good,â€ť Burrillville coach Marty Crowley said. â€śOur kids have worked hard. We have very solid 1-2-3 runners. Our depth was key. Even though we have already qualified for states, they havenâ€™t let up.â€ť
â€śI am very proud of Annie,â€ť he continued. â€śShe got beat by four kids that are better than her. There is no shame in that. Sheâ€™s getting better and better every race. I am very happy for her.â€ť