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Look out for these track stars in 2011!

December 30, 2010

Aleide Fernandes

Just like the other winter sports we cover, the indoor track season will enter a new year on Saturday.
Some goals that were set back in early November remain the same, but with 2011 now beginning there’s also those New Year’s resolutions.
Or, shall we say, a new set of goals – perhaps ones that become more realistic after the first two months of the season.
Will those goals (new and old) be accomplished? Time will only tell.
Here’s a glimpse at what is potentially in store from our top local track & field athletes in the coming months.
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Central Falls standout Aleide Fernandes has finally reached her senior year. Fernandes burst onto the season in the tenth grade when she shocked pre-meet favorite Brittany Lawson of Woonsocket to capture the shot put at the indoor state meet.
Since that performance, Fernandes has been a regular fixture at the top of the rankings. She copped the shot again in the outdoor states as a sophomore and at last year’s outdoor meet was the recipient of three titles (hammer, shot and discus).
Right now, all signs are for a prosperous season on the indoor surface. Currently, Fernandes has the state’s best distances in the shot (37 feet, 9 inches) and the 20-pound weight (53-11).
In the weight throw, the CF star is more than six feet ahead of her nearest pursuer, Amber Jones of Classical (47-1/2).
A pectoral injury towards the latter part of the indoor track season last year sidetracked the favored Fernandes somewhat at the 2010 state meet and she finished as a runner-up in the shot and the weight.
It was obvious she didn’t let that affect her mindset the next season as evident by her three-title performance at the outdoor state meet.
C.F. head coach Ernest Fennell expects big things out of his thrower.
“I think she is very confident this year,” he said. “(Assistant coach) Nick Palazzo has been working with her closely. She has been progressing nicely.”
Besides the potential of winning her sixth and seventh individual state titles, Fernandes should surpass two milestones this winter – cracking 40 feet for the shot and 60 feet in the weight.
“I definitely think so,” Palazzo said. “I think the weight will be easier than the shot. But she has been working real hard in the shot, learning new things, adding a little more technique to make her a master thrower.”
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Based on his spectacular effort at the outdoor state meet where he snared his first individual title in the high jump with a personal-best height of 6-8, versatile junior Steven Vazquez is another Central Falls athlete that could take home gold come February.
Vazquez is a part-time leaper during indoor as he also dedicates the winter months as a varsity player for the basketball team. In the fall, he’s the starting quarterback for the football squad.
Both sports have given Vazquez a slow start to indoor track. He’s nursing an ankle injury he suffered on the court a few weeks ago and is still recovering from a hip injury that he got on the gridiron.
So far, he’s competed in just one meet, leaping 5-10 at the Injury Fund Relay Carnival on Dec. 9.
“He stopped at the height because he really didn’t need to go any higher,” Fennell said. “He’s still dragging his feet instead of driving his knee up. He really hasn’t done anything since the New England (Outdoor Championships).”
Once the injuries do heal the C.F. coach figures his jumper will be in the mix again. Vazquez was third at last year’s indoor meet.
Chariho senior Innocent Jacob (6-4), sixth-place finisher at last year’s meet, and Rogers junior Divon Baily (6-6) are atop the present list.
“I am not really pressing him because he has basketball and he still has outdoor to do,” Fennell said. “But he should do well.”
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In last year’s girls’ outdoor state meet, the area claimed the first three places with then-freshman Kaylynn Pitts shocking the competition with a winning height of 5-3. Ponaganset’s Catherine Dominick was second (5-3) and Ali Sayles of Mount St. Charles was third (5-1).
There’s potential for another area 1-2-3 sweep this indoor campaign with Pitts and Sayles back and Lincoln senior Ariana Lefebvre. Sayles is currently tied with Chariho junior Amy Roy for the No. 1 spot in the high jump at 5-1. Lefebvre, who battled a series of injuries last year, appears to be in early-season form. She took second at the RITCA Invitational on Dec. 18.
Lefebvre has proven, when healthy, that she is a serious contender with a second, a pair of thirds and a fourth-place finish at the state level her first two years of competing.
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Due to the fact that the races are won by the smallest of margins, the sprints are a tough event to predict. At present, though, the front-runner is Shea senior Fred Gobewole.
In his first season of track & field last year, Gobewole finished third in the 55-meter dash at the state meet. He then followed that effort with an identical placement in the 100 at the outdoor states.
Gobewole, a star running back for the school’s football team, has already timed a quick, hand-held clocking of 6.3 for the dash, two-tenths faster than his next rival, Jacob. He also captured the event at Wednesday’s R.I. Track Classic with a meet record, electronically, of 6.47.
There’s also newcomer Jalen Evans, a sophomore from Woonsocket. Like Gobewole, Evans created havoc for his opponents on the football field with his speed as a receiver. Once he further develops his form and technique, two important components for sprinters, he should make some noise statewide. He has a best of 6.7 so far this season.

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