Members of Skee Carterâs family turned out for the Skee Carter Invitational on Thursday afternoon at Burrillville Middle School. Gathering for a family picture are (left-to-right) top row: son-in-law Jason Gambardelli (holding his 18-month-old daughter Alicia), wife Cheryl Carter, granddaughter Sabrina Gambardelli, son Chris Carter, daughter Melissa Gambardelli, and daughter-in-law Susan Carter; front row: granddaughter Mackenzie Carter and grandson Aidan Carter. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
BURRILLVILLE â As Burrillville High junior Betsy Dumais tried to hustle up the hill yards before the two-mile mark, and with a few harriers still within sight, her mind drifted to a former coach who always was there for her.
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âJust as I got to âCarterâs Passâ (a half-mile stretch that begins about a tenth of a mile later), I thought, âThose girls are pulling away,â and I knew Coach wouldnât stand for that. Heâd be there cheering me on, trying to get me going,ââ Dumais stated. âI knew I had to start moving.â
The amiable Bronco did, covering the 3.1-mile trail at Burrillville Middle School in 19:33.41 to claim fifth overall at this inaugural Skee Carter Invitational at Burrillville Middle School on Thursday afternoon.
Dumaisâs head coach, Marty Crowley, decided to rename the eighth annual Bronco Invitational in honor and memory of his beloved former assistant Wilfrid âSkeeâ Carter, who died suddenly of a massive heart attack last Jan. 2.
The event attracted 28 teams from throughout the state in each of the boysâ and girlsâ divisions, and turned out to be much larger than the old Bronco Invitational ever was. The credit â though he would have none of it â belonged to Crowley.
Heâs the one who contacted schools to invite them to the prestigious race, one that included not just two varsity races but also another pair for junior-varsity harriers. Heâs also the man who asked the late Carterâs wife, Cheryl, and son Chris and his family to take part.
Frankly, itâs never been bigger, as the BMS parking lot filled to the brim with spectator cars and team buses.
âMarty called me a few weeks ago and told me he had renamed the Invitational for my father, and I was so pleased,â Chris stated by the finish line near Victory Highway, and as his children played nearby. âHe said he knew baseball was always my dadâs love (Skee spent decades as the Burrillville varsity mentor), but that he also loved being with the cross-country kids.
âHe told me, âI donât want to be outmatched (by the baseball season-opening ceremony last April), but I have to do something for Skee in this sport,ââ he added. âHe asked my family to attend and give out T-shirts (with his fatherâs name attached) to the top 15 finishers in each race. He said, âI know itâs during the week, and that youâve got work,â but I told him, âIâll be there, no question.â
âWhen I got here, I was overwhelmed! I never thought so many people would come out to run and watch.â
Cheryl Carter wasnât.
âI wasnât surprised at all,â she smiled. âMy husband always talked about the excitement of the state cross-country meet, how many kids and teams showed up, and how confusing it all was. He wouldâve loved this. I have to thank Marty for all heâs done. Given the (fantastic Indian summer) weather, I know heâs smiling down on all of us.â
Offered Crowley: âWe did this for obvious reasons; Skee was my assistant for all 11 years I was here, and this was the least we could do for such a warm, gentle, caring man. He became a close friend of mine, and his death touched us all deeply.
âIt was great to have his whole family here; heâs with us every day. He meant a lot of the kids, but also a lot to all who knew him, not just in Burrillville but all over New England.â
Dumais didnât manufacture her best-ever time on this course this day, but she indicated she couldnât have been more pleased with her outing. The only ones to outrace her were East Greenwich junior Margaret McCaffrey, who snared the title in 18:58.08; Smithfield junior Stephanie Mattson (second, 19:00.10); Narragansett sophomore Marissa McPhillips (third, 19:16.26); and EG junior Thedita Pederson (fourth, 19:22.91).
Thanks in part to the placements of Mattson, junior Rebecca Meinertz (eighth) and Genesse Daley (14th), the Sentinels claimed the team title with 59 points, 13 better than runner-up North Kingstown and a whopping 61 more than third-place South Kingstown.
For the Broncos, junior Kaidy Cornell took 20th overall in 20:53.21 (only .70 seconds ahead of Mount St. Charles senior Megan Corbeil) and Morgan Allen 35th to lead their contingent to sixth overall with 210 points. Lincoln sophomore Amanda LâEsperance finished 10th in 19:59.21 as the Lions snatched ninth (270), edging 10th-place Cumberland by 22 points.
âIt wasnât my PR here, but Iâm happy,â Dumais said. âThis is another stepping stone on the road to the state meet. It was a really fast race, and a few girls really took it out quick. I was up with the leaders until just after the two-mile mark.
âTheyâre awesome hill runners, and they set a killer pace; I just couldnât keep up.â
On the boysâ side, Mount St. Charles senior co-captain Elijah Tousignant provided the premier area placement, crossing the finish line in sixth with a 16:40.57 clocking.
That was about 39 ticks slower than individual champion and East Greenwich senior co-captain Garrett Scanlon, who closed in 16:01.20, .97 ahead of second-place teammate Graham Chapski.
The Avengers easily gleaned the team crown with 27 points, with North Kingstown a distant second (51) and Scituate third (89). The good news for Tousignant: The Mounties managed fourth with 173, while Cumberland took seventh (225); Lincoln ninth (281); and host Burrillville 11th (306).
âMy best time here is 16:07, so Iâm not really that pleased,â Tousignant mentioned. âI ran alright, but nothing spectacular. I just felt slow. I havenât had a great last two weeks of training; I had a little bit of a cold, but that didnât matter. Iâve had two down weeks, but that happens every now and then.
âI finished second (in this race) last year, and I wanted to do the same,â he added. âLike I said, I was off a little bit. Iâm just going to focus on the next couple weeks, and prepare for states.â
When asked if he was looking forward to his taper, with the state meet approximately two-plus weeks away, he stated, âI donât have a strong opinion either way. My taper has worked out for me the past couple of years, so it doesnât make that much a difference to me. I like doing a lot of mileage, but weâll see. I finished 32nd last year at states, and my goal now is to make All-State (top 21).
Cumberland junior David Agudelo took 11th overall in 16:58.93, and Burrillville junior Zach Durand placed 17th in 17:20.61. Luke Demers topped the Mountiesâ lineup, mustering 24th in 17:20.91.
âI thought the boys ran awesome,â Crowley said about his Broncos. âBoth Zach and Ben Cornell ran great races. Zach did his best time by about 30 seconds, and Ben by 10-15, so Iâm happy.
âBetsy ran well, even though she was about 20 seconds off her PR,â he continued. âThe thing is, sheâs had some hard races. She ran great at the Belfast (Me.) Festival of Champions, and also in Scituate. It is what it is. I was just happy to see Kaidy break 21 minutes and (junior Ruby Perry) do well. That was easily her best race of the year.â