PROVIDENCE – Minutes after finishing his 55-meter race on Monday afternoon, Jessie Charette sat down on the track and took off his racing flats. The Woonsocket High senior placed third, edged by teammate and overall winner Jalen Evans and runner-up Butch Giguere of Ponaganset at the line in a Northern Division tri-meet at the Providence Athletic Facility.
But despite coming up short at the finish in his quest for individual glory, Charette was still smiling. His trademark grin was evident.
Charette, a versatile athlete that starred as a wide receiver/defensive back on the school’s state championship football team and, most recently, was the point guard for the basketball squad, was in a place he feels he belongs this winter - a place that may eventually make it easier for him to attend college next fall.
Less than a month ago, Charette informed basketball head coach Kyle Ivey-Jones that he was leaving after two years as a starter for the Novans to return to his love of track and field. In his mind, there was no other decision.
“My whole life I have always been trying to please people,” he said. “I would stick with something because I didn’t want to disappoint my mom, my coaches. I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t realize I wasn’t doing it for me. Now, I am doing what I want to do.”
In Monday’s meet, that also included rival Cumberland, Charette was competing in his first-ever meet on the indoor surface. But track is certainly nothing new to the gifted Villa Novans.
During a breakout sophomore season in outdoor track in 2009, Charette excelled in the jumping events and the sprints. He capped off the year at the state meet by placing third in the triple jump with an impressive distance of 41 feet, 10 inches and combining with teammates Sean Ceccofiglio, Carlos Ortiz and Geoff Phaneuf to take fourth in the 4x100-meter relay with a school record of 43.93 seconds.
Charette didn’t return to the outdoor squad his junior campaign to concentrate more on his studies and for the simple reason that he didn’t look further than just competing in track.
“I really didn’t think it would benefit me,” he said. “My senior year I realized that maybe this could actually help me out. It could be better for me to get into college.”
Longtime WHS head coach George Briggs got the good news about Charette’s intentions in late December.
“It was just after Christmas when he told me he wanted to join the team,” Briggs said. “At first, I was rather reluctant. He’s a point guard on the basketball team, a very important part of that team. We are happy to have him, but I didn’t go out to recruit him. I don’t play those games. In fact, our top two distance runners are wrestlers. That’s one of the reasons we are so woefully weak in the distance events.”
With Charette coming on board, Woonsocket will strengthen its already-strong sprinting and jumping core. He’s on a team that includes some quality speed from sprinters like Evans, senior Anthony Neal and junior Tyler Bourk and talented leapers such as junior Alex Correia and junior Bryan Guilbert, who both cracked 19 feet in placing second and third in Monday night’s meet.
“It’s certainly a nice addition to the team,” Briggs said. “We had him in outdoor track a couple of years. He’s an excellent triple-jumper, an excellent long-jumper. He’s the heart and sole of the relay team. He’s on that second leg. We are just happy to have him on the team.
“He’s a senior so we’ll have him for one year,” he continued. “He certainly adds a lot to the team. I expect big things out of him. He’s a lot of points in big meets. He’s a big-meet performer, no doubt about it. “
With limited training due to his prior commitment on the hardwood, Charette still fared quite well in his indoor track debut. Even though he finished third in the 55 dash, he registered the same time of 6.7 that Evans and Giguere both clocked. Charette also tied for second with Neal (behind Evans) in the 300 with a fast time of 38.9 and was on the winning 4x200 relay squad of Evans, Neal and Bourk that combined for a time of 1:36.9. Charette did not compete in the long jump.
The indoor season has one more month until the state championships, which will take place at PAF on Feb. 19. In preparation for that meet, Charette will have his share of competition in the short sprints. Shea’s Fred Gobewole is the top-ranked sprinter in the 55 dash with his best of 6.3. There are other runners like Moses Brown’s Josh Gilkinson (6.4), Chariho’s Innocent Jacob (6.5) and Evans, to name a few that are strong contenders.
“If I practice hard enough,” Charette said, “I will definitely be catching them.”
On Saturday, the Woonsocket speedster will be matched up with Evans and Gobewole in a meet with the Raiders and Central Falls. That will be followed by the league championship (Feb. 5) and the Class A meet (Feb. 11).
“Saturday he is going to get tested,” Briggs said. “He’s going to go against Shea that has a lot of speed. We have the Northern Division Championships and the Class A meet that are coming up. Right now, he’s an uncut diamond as far as indoor track is concerned.”
Charette likes the fact that the long jump has been added to the list of events this year. The Chargers’ Jacob is far ahead of the field with his nationally-ranked leap of 23-3 this season. With his consistency in the 20-feet range, Charette could be among the mix in vying for the next few spots at the state meet.
“I thought I was going to have to wait until outdoor for the long jump,” he said. “Now I can practice and get better for indoor to get even better for outdoor.”
With his football prowess - he earned all-state honors this past fall – and his talent in track and field, Charette is looking to pursue both sports at the next level. He’s eyeing URI, Florida International, St. John’s and Miami as potential places to spend the next four years.
“I’m doing really well in school right now. I made honors and almost made high honors,” he said. “It’s not all about sports. I want to be a marine biologist so I want to stick with a school that best offers that.”