SMITHFIELD â The strategy was simple. Take it moderately easy the first half of the race and when the course hits the woods for the rolling hills, then go to work.
Thatâs the plan that Mount St. Charles Academy and Smithfield High had entering Mondayâs Northern Division opener on the tough three-mile layout at Bryant University.
Both teams carried out those strategies, though the Mounties did it just a little better.
With senior Patrick Butler leading the way, Mount St. Charles claimed four of the top six placements and had just enough from its remaining varsity runners to hold off the defending league champion Sentinels, 26-31.
âOur plan is always the same. We want to go out conservatively on the uphill,â said Smithfield coach Joe Bennett, making reference to the quarter-mile incline that greets runners at the start of the race. âEarly on, when we first adopted this course, we went out too hard and we lost it at the end âŠ They (MSC) had the same plan as us today and they executed it a little better. They are a good team.â
Butler won yesterdayâs race convincingly. He hung with a pack of three other runners, including Smithfieldâs Ryan Pagliaro and his MSC teammates Andrew Knueven and Elijah Touisgnant, for the first half of the race. Once he hit the mile stretch in the wooded section of the course, he put on a surge and was never challenged, finishing with a modest time of 17 minutes, 47 seconds.
Pagliaro took the runner-up spot with a 17:56 clocking. Knueven (18:26) and Tousignant (18:28) were third and fourth, respectively. The Mounties also had a sixth-place finish from Matt Alexander (19:17) and completed their sweep in the meet, which also included Davies Tech, Central Falls and Woonsocket, with a 12th-place effort from Adam Bouley (19:42).
MSC head coach Roland Lavallee knew the race would be similar to last yearâs against the Sentinels when recent graduate Liam Hillery led his teammates to a close verdict against the Mounties.
âTo be honest, we know this course. Itâs a beautiful place, but itâs really, really hard,â Lavallee said. âLast year the same thing kind of happened to him [Joe Bennett]. Hillery kind of controlled the pace and made it a slow race and kind of pulled away. This year I feel it was Patrickâs turn. I got to commend my second and third runners and the maturity and poise that they had. They followed right in there. They didnât fall too far behind and didnât over extend themselves and said we are going to have to go to war when we get to the woods, and they did their jobs.â
Butler, who was 21st overall at last yearâs state championship, is one of the stateâs best this fall. He had a productive summer of training, logging countless miles on the open roads and throwing in an occasional 18-miler.
âThe summer went great. It was probably my best summer training I have had,â he said. âIt started off with just base running and heavy distance, but nothing too heavy or strenuous. Then halfway into the summer I started working in some workouts and some long distance runs. It was just a nice easy flow into the season.â
âI am looking for top five this year (at the state meet),â he continued. âI donât think I reached my potential in todayâs race. Todayâs race was kind of a warm-up as will the other dual meets. Iâll use them as warm-ups. Once I get into the bigger races, like the class and state (meets), that when I will open up. I definitely think I have potential for top five this year.â
Lavallee doesnât doubt that his star runner can accomplish what former teammate Dan Appenfeller did back in 2009 by placing fifth at the states.
âI think heâs poised for a run at first team (all state) this year,â he said. âDan Appenfeller was a big role model for these guys. Last year, [Butler] and the senior from last year, Brian Deer, then ran pretty much identical to what Dan did when he came in [fifth]. It was just that last year the race went out like crazy and the times were much faster. These guys proved that on any given year they can be right in the mix.â
During the 2010 junior high cross-country state championships, Smithfield easily ran away with the title.
Seven of those girls are on this yearâs high school roster and based on what they did over the weekend and in Mondayâs Northern Division opener, these fabulous freshmen could be turning some heads this fall.
Just two days after winning their race at the annual Injury Fund Cross-Country Carnival, the Sentinelsâ talented ninth-graders were at it again yesterday afternoon at the Bryant University campus, sweeping the top three placements en route to a convincing sweep of Mount St. Charles, Davies Tech, Woonsocket and Central Falls.
Stephanie Mattson claimed individual honors with a time of 21:10. She was followed across the line by frosh teammates Rebecca Meinertz (21:40) and first-time runner Madison Saliba (22:01). The Sentinels wrapped up the meet with senior Rebecca Tellier finishing fourth at 22:22 and another freshman, Caitlin Paredes, placing sixth with 22:34 clocking. Mount St. Charles senior Lauren Deguire broke up the Sentinelsâ party by taking fifth overall with a time of 22:29. Woonsocketâs Kristen Treganowan was 10th overall at 23:59.
âItâs a very good start,â said Smithfield co-coach John Marchand, whose team copped last yearâs league title. âWe have a very talented freshmen group, perhaps the best that weâve had since I have been here coaching. Itâs still a work in progress, which is good. Hopefully we stay healthy and continue to improve. We have a lot of work to do, but we ran great today.â
Mattson, who was a runner-up at the junior high states last year, switched places with Meinertz this time. At the Injury Fund meet, which the Sentinels defeated North Kingstown, 21-65, for the title, Meinertz won the race with her teammate placing second.
âThatâs the intriguing part about it,â Marchand said. âI told people last week, I still donât know who the No. 1 runner is on this team because they interchange so many times at practice by having great days. On any given day, it can be anyone even in the workoutsâŠItâs hopefully going to be a very deep team and hopefully weâll stay healthy and run as a pack. I think that will make the team better. Thatâs what we are preaching.â