Cumberland High coach Tom Kenwood consistently has had top-level squads over his nearly two-decade career heading the boysâ€™ cross-country program.
With several key runners back this fall, including outstanding junior Trevor Crawley, this fallâ€™s team may be among his best.
Kenwood lists Chariho Regional, Bishop Hendricken and La Salle Academy as the schools that will more than likely be battling it out for team supremacy, but he ranks his Clippers right there in the upper-echelon of finishers at the state championships in early November.
Besides Crawley, who placed 22nd overall at the state meet last year, the Clippers have two other strong returnees in senior tri-captains Matt Sutcliffe and Tom Fownes. The rest of the varsity lineup includes senior tri-captain Sean Seaver, junior Rich Church and the sophomore trio of Kevin Seaver, Alex Southiere and Matt Smith.
Cumberland claimed the state title back in 2004 and was third the following year. Since those back-to-back seasons, the Clippers have not been able to crack the top six and earn a slot to the New England Championships.
â€śI think this team has a good shot at making top six,â€ť said Kenwood on Wednesday afternoon, just a few hours before his squadâ€™s pre-season practice at The Monastery. â€śMy top three guys should go under 17 minutes [for five kilometers]. I think that Sean Seaver and Rich Church will be in the mid-to-low 17s and the other three guys Iâ€™m expecting to break 18 minutes.â€ť
Cumberland finished 10-1 last year in the Northern Division with the team crown going to undefeated Smithfield (11-0), which defeated the Clippers in the final league meet of the season. Kenwoodâ€™s crews have captured the league crown five times in the last 10 years with its last coming in 2009. The CHS coach believes his latest batch should be the favorite to win the plaque this season with Smithfield, Lincoln and Mount St. Charles also possible contenders.
The defending champion Sentinels, a sixth-place finisher at the 2010 states, lost four of their top seven runners from that squad, including all-stater Liam Hillery. Possibly returning this fall after successful underclassmen campaigns last year for Smithfield are junior Ryan Pagliaro and sophomore Josh Brown. Pagliaro finished 45th at the state meet as a tenth-grader and Brown broke through the varsity lineup as a frosh and nearly broke 18 minutes at the states, running 18:00.85 on Ponagansetâ€™s challenging five-kilometer layout.
With Pagliaro and Brown leading the way and the traditional array of quality athletes that have usually filled the roster for its consistently-strong programs under longtime coach Joe Bennett, Smithfield may make things interesting for the Clippers. The two rivals will face each other the final dual-meet of the season on Oct. 4, a meet that could determine the league title.
â€śI think Smithfield, if they have Brown back, could be contending for the top spot,â€ť Kenwood said. â€śMount St. Charles has three guys that are pretty good and Lincoln looks strong. But I think we should be the favorite for the top spot.â€ť
The Mounties were 9-2 for third in the league last year and placed 11th at the state meet, a spot behind the Clippers. Coming back for his final year is senior Patrick Butler. Butler was the No. 2 runner for Mount last fall, placing 21st overall at the states with a fast time of 16:40.57. Senior teammates Matt Olean and Alex Carlson provide a quality 1-2 punch for Lincoln, fourth in the league last year at 7-4.
Individually, look for Crawley to be among the best in the state. The Cumberland junior clocked a time of 16:49.75 for his finish at last yearâ€™s states. More importantly, though, he progressively got better from that performance on the indoor and outdoor surfaces. He concluded his season by cracking the nine-minute barrier for the 3,000-meter run at the outdoor championships, running 8:59.93.
Crawley proved his summer training has been going well just a few weeks ago when he was the runner-up finisher at the Cumberlandfest 5K where he was timed in 16:30 for the challenging race.
â€śThatâ€™s a fairly difficult course,â€ť said Kenwood, who is the race director of the Cumberlandfest event. â€śThat tells me he can do 16:30 or even low 16s at Ponaganset [for the state meet]. I think heâ€™s top seven and definitely top 10 [at this yearâ€™s championship].â€ť
The boysâ€™ cross-country season officially kicks off on Sept. 8 with the statewide Injury Fund Carnival at Burrillville Middle School. The league season starts on Sept. 12. Other important meets on the slate are the Blackstone Valley Invitational at Burrillville (Sept. 16), the Ocean State Invitational (Sept. 24) and the Brown Invitational at Goddard State Park (Oct. 15) and the Bronco Invitational at Burrillville (Oct. 20). There is also the class championships (Oct. 29) and the state championships (Nov. 6). Both those meets will be at Ponaganset, the same site for this yearâ€™s New England Championships (Nov. 12).