GLOCESTER – Jalen Evans has already mastered the 100- and 200-meter dashes this spring, posting some of the state’s fastest times in the two events.
You might as well add the 400 to that list.
The Woonsocket High sophomore showed his versatility and his overall talent for the longer sprint with an impressive victory at Monday’s Northern Division Championship, held at Ponaganset. Competing in the event individually for the first time, Evans passed Cumberland senior Andrew Baglini with 40 meters remaining to break the tape in a near-school mark of 51.6 seconds.
“He is quite the talent, quite the talent,” said Woonsocket coach George Briggs. “He ran 51.2 in the 4x400 relay a few weeks ago and I thought my stopwatch was off. He just likes running it. If you watch him run, his technique is just fluid.”
Evans’s performance in the 400 at the divisional meet highlighted a four-victory afternoon for the Villa Novan standout, who also claimed titles in the 100 (11.2), 200 (23.4) and as the leadoff leg for the first-place 4x100 relay (45.6).
But while Evans may have been the individual star for the afternoon, it was defending champion Cumberland that captured the team glory. The Clippers scored in all but three events to win their second straight league crown with a 164-105 win over second-place Ponaganset. Woonsocket finished third with 95 ½ points.
Already leading by a comfortable cushion, Cumberland solidified the title in the final few events with a 1-2-3 finish in the 3,000 and 10 points in the 200.
“I told the kids before they got off the bus that everyone has to perform well and do their best to win this meet,” CHS coach Tom Kenwood said. “We did. We did all that. You can’t ask for much more.”
Cumberland crowned four individual champions in the meet with sophomore Trevor Crawley (3,000), junior Ryan Rei (triple jump), senior Chris Duarte (110 high hurdles) and junior Joseph Covino (hammer) earning gold. The Clippers’ 4x800 squad of senior Matt Spavold, junior Matt Sutcliffe, senior Bryan Kuchar and Crawley also claimed victory.
Rei defeated the Villa Novans’ Jessie Charette on his final attempt to win the triple jump with a school record of 44-6 ¼. Charette was second at 44-3, a distance he also achieved on his last attempt.
Rei, who also placed second in the long jump (19-9 ¼) and the high jump (6-0), broke a more than 20-year-old mark in the triple jump by half an inch.
“I knew he had it in him,” Kenwood said. “His goal was to break the school record and he came through.”
“It was unbelievable,” said Briggs, who worked the long and triple jump pits at the meet. “It just went back-and-forth. It was just unbelievable jumping at the twilight of the meet.”
Crawley led the Clippers in the 3,000 where he was timed in 9:35.8. Sutcliffe finished second (9:43.8) and senior Alec Bassett was third (9:44.3).
Duarte copped his specialty in a tight race with Woonsocket’s Anthony Neal, winning with a time of 15.6 to Neal’s 16.0. The Clipper senior, who claimed the hurdle title at the Schomp Invitational this past Saturday with a career-best 15.2 clocking, took the outright lead at the divisionals on the second to last hurdle.
“He’s a very good athlete,” said Duarte about Neal. “He pulled away first and I was trailing behind him. I hit a few hurdles that were slowing me down. I just ran as fast as I could to beat him.”
The Clippers’ Covino took the hammer by more than five feet with a winning toss of 151-2 and the 4x800 team was timed in 8:44.3.
The Novans’ Evans, who is competing in his first year of track & field, has not missed a beat since a highly-successful indoor track season. He trailed the front-running Baglini in the 400 until the final straightaway where he unleashed his blazing speed in the closing stages of the race. Baglini finished with a personal-best time of 51.9.
“I was a little tight running the last curve,” Evans said. “I saw him near me and the last 100 meters I just started to sprint and get my stride going and my arms pumping. I did that and came in first. (Baglini’s) a great runner, though.”
Evans was just two days removed from winning the 100 and placing second in the 200 at the Schomp meet. The 400 is a race he might take seriously at the state meet next month.
“I think I might drop the 200 for this race,” he said. “I like long distance races. I’m a sprinter so if I can deal with this race I can be faster than most runners (in the event).”
Woonsocket also had a fine effort from Charette, who captured the long jump (20-3 ½), took second in the triple jump and was fifth in the high jump (5-8). He also combined with Evans, Alex Correia and Tyler Bourk to take the 4x100 relay with a time of 45.6.
In the long jump, Charette was third going into his sixth and final jump of the competition.
“I relaxed, I just kept my head, kept my chest up,” he said about his first-place jump. “I was pumping my legs in the air and I just went far.”
Central Falls, a fifth-place finisher in the meet with 48 points, had a victory from junior Steven Vazquez in the high jump with a leap of 6-2. Vazquez owns the state’s best height with a winning 6-10 effort at the Schomp meet.
Ponaganset has a double-winning effort from senior John Greenhalgh. Greenhalgh won the shot put at 45-3 and the discus with a heave of 135-2.