There’s never too little to write about when it comes to the Blackstone Valley region and the indoor track & field state championships.
This weekend’s meet, however, may border on the ridiculous. In fact, when it comes to its conclusion roughly four hours after its early 10 o’clock start on Saturday morning, there’s a good chance I’ll develop a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Shea senior Freddy Gobewole, Smithfield sophomore Angela Ragosta, Cumberland senior Chris Duarte and Central Falls senior Aleide Fernandes and junior Steven Vazquez, all ranked No. 1 statewide in their respective events, highlight a long list of outstanding local athletes that have earned the rite to compete inside the cozy confines of the Providence Athletic Facility.
Here’s what’s in store for this scribe in what has potential to be a very busy afternoon:
Fernandes returns to a very familiar scenario when she competes this weekend. She’s already won five individual state crowns in the weight events since her sophomore year and now looks to be a shoo-in to add two more. The C.F. standout owns the best throws in the 20-pound weight and the shot put by convincing margins.
In this past Saturday’s Small School Championship, Fernandes heaved a season-best distance of 56 feet, 2 ¼ inches in the 20-pound weight. That effort not only moves the Warrior senior to No. 4 on the national rankings, but it’s nearly seven feet further than her closest competitor, Robyn McFetters of Barrington. C.F. teammate Kadi Johnson is currently sixth in the state at 43-3 ¼.
The big question in this event is will the Central Falls multiple all-stater be able to unleash a throw past the 60-foot barrier?
Fernandes, who was hampered last year by a pectoral injury and “only” finished second in her two specialties at the 2010 state meet, has a season-best of 37-8 in the shot. She’s more than four-feet better than Alex Fowler of La Salle, who owns the next best throw at 33-6 ¼. Woonsocket’s Kelsey Boucher, who did not compete at the Large School Championship over the weekend, is fourth at 32-6 ½.
The Sentinels’ Ragosta, an eighth-place finisher at last year’s state meet as a freshman, could strike gold in the 55-meter high hurdles. She won Saturday’s Small School Championship by two-tenths of a second over Mount St. Charles junior Ali Sayles with her time of 8.7. A week earlier, she claimed the Bayha Division title with the state’s best clocking of 8.5. Sayles and North Kingstown freshman Maria Bolibruch are tied for No. 2 on the list with 8.7 clockings. Sophomore Breigh Souliere of Cumberland ranks fourth with an 8.9, a time she achieved in finishing as a runner-up to Bolibruch at the Large School meet.
Unbeatable this year, including winning the Rhody Classic with a meet record of 6.47 seconds (electronically timed), Gobewole will surely have the target on his singlet in the 55-meter dash. So far, the Raiders’ speedster doesn’t seem too fazed by his competition. He owns the state’s best time of 6.3, a time he has achieved on numerous occasions. There are a half dozen sprinters that have run 6.4 and several more, including East Providence’s Ryan Williams, Woonsocket’s Jalen Evans and Central Falls’ Kevin Perez, that have been timed in 6.5.
The Clippers’ Duarte looked smooth and relaxed in winning the 55 hurdles in convincing fashion at the Northern Division Championship on Feb. 5. He followed that effort by edging Cranston East’s Angel Camillo at the Class A meet on Friday. Duarte and Classical’s versatile senior Jarell Forbes, who has leaped 5-10 in the high jump and run 1:27 in the 600, are tied for the best time at 7.6.
It wasn’t until a dual meet against Lincoln and Mount St. Charles on Jan. 22 that Duarte was finally able to dip under eight seconds in the hurdles. Now it’s become a regular occurrence for the CHS standout, who will be looking to become the third athlete from Cumberland to claim a state hurdle crown.
Vazquez, the defending outdoor titlist in the high jump, is tied with two other leapers in his specialty heading into the states with a height of 6-6. Also joining Vazquez are Chariho’s Innocent Jacob and Divon Bailey of Rogers.
The Central Falls all-stater, who has not practice this season due to his commitment as a starting point guard on the school’s hoop squad, achieved his season-best height in winning the Northern Division Championship a few weeks ago. He was unable to compete in the Class C meet this past Friday because it conflicted with a basketball game, but he’ll be back and aiming for back-to-back crowns (outdoor and indoor).
One event that will be tough to predict the outcome is the girls’ high jump where six athletes have cleared five feet or higher and nine more have done 4-10. Heading the list is La Salle’s Dakota Dailey-Harris, a basketball player for the school’s varsity team. In her first meet this season on Feb. 2 at the Headley Division Championship, Dailey-Harris won the title at 5-4, the top height in the state. The Mounties’ Sayles came an inch shorter at 5-3 with her victory a day earlier at the Bayha Division Championship. Behind the tandem with a 5-2 best is talented sophomore Kaylnn Pitts of Woonsocket, last spring’s outdoor champion. Pitts matched Daily-Harris leap-for-leap at the Large School meet and eventually finished second to her rival based on fewer misses.
Ponaganset’s Cate Dominick and Cumberland’s Amber Russell have both jumped 5-0 this season.
Smithfield’s Liam Hillery could strike it rich in a heavily-contested 3,000 race that includes six runners that have run faster than nine minutes this season. Hillery ranks No. 2 with his national-caliber time of 8:47.9, while cross-country state titlist Robert Allen of Cranston West owns the top spot at 8:43.2. In his final tune-up for the big race, Hillery sizzled to a time of 4:10 in winning the 1,500 at the Class C meet. Cumberland sophomore Trevor Crawley, the Northern Division titlist with a career-best 9:10 clocking for the 3K, could run in the low 9s with the quality field that will be assembled.
It will be interesting to see how far Woonsocket’s Jessie Charette will leap in the long jump. At last Friday’s Class A meet, Charette won with a distance of 21-9 ½, No. 2 on the list and nearly a foot further than his previous best. He’s still behind by a substantial distance to Jacob, who was recently featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd for his nation-leading distance of 24-4 that he achieved in winning the Yale Track Classic in January, but second certainly seems attainable after his win at the class meet.
The Villa Novans’ Evans also has potential to prosper at the state championships in the sprint events with his 6.5 in the 55 and a 36.8 in the 300.
With all the action that will be going on this Saturday, the athletes may not be the only ones that need track shoes. I just may have to slip a pair on to make sure I don’t miss anything.