PROVIDENCE — Waiting to compete in the high jump at Saturday’s RIIL Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Mount St. Charles Academy’s versatile junior Ali Sayles nearly missed the finals of the 100-meter high hurdles.
It’s a good thing she got there in time. A few minutes after hustling her way over to the starting line, Sayles was crowned an individual titlist.
“It’s just crazy,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
Neither did most of the spectators who witnessed the race inside Brown Stadium. Sayles, who clocked an electronically-timed personal best of 15.86 seconds to snare the win, was trailing Smithfield’s outstanding sophomore Angela Ragosta, the top seed, for most of the race. But with a sizable lead over the rest of the field, Ragosta’s foot caught the eighth of nine hurdles and she stumbled to the ground.
That mishap allowed a visibly-shocked Sayles to run away with the title. Cumberland junior Breigh Souliere took the runner-up spot at 16.12 and East Providence senior Nichole Haar was fifth with a time of 16.35.
“I was compelled to stop and check on her,” said Sayles, who finished third to Ragosta in the 55 high hurdles at the indoor state meet a few months ago. “I felt awful because I am actually friends with her.”
Smithfield coach John Marchand attributed the misfortune of his star hurdler to a weakness in the hip flexor of her trail leg.
“Sometimes it hangs. We have to work on strengthening that,” he said. “When she turns it over like she did in the final, the hurdle comes up on her real quick and sometimes you can’t get your trail leg up in time. That’s what happens. She clips it. It looked like for a minute that she was going to power through, but the hurdles are so heavy that she went down. It happens. She’s a great kid and she’ll try and learn from this and come back even more determined next year.”
Despite the unfortunate occurrence of Ragosta, Sayles still ran a solid race to earn her first state crown, a race she almost was a no-show.
“I thought I would have more time to check in the high jump and then get to the hurdles,” Sayles said. “As soon as I got to the [high jump area], I saw them setting up the hurdles so I had to sprint to the start. They actually messed up the seed numbers so it gave me enough time to catch my breath and get my marks and stuff.”
“I honestly feel I had a good stride [in the race], probably one of the fastest I’ve ever run,” she added “In my head, I was like I got to win, I got to win. I think I had a really good race.”
Woonsocket sophomore Kaylnn Pitts also attained gold in the more than six-hour meet, held under ideal conditions. Pitts, the No. 1 seed in the triple jump, copped that title with ease with a career-best leap of 38 feet, 1 ¼ inches.
“I realized that once I hit the board I was either 39 [feet] or 38 [feet],” she said. “My first jump was behind the board and I got 36 [feet]. I figured if I got on the board I’m either at 37 or 38 [feet].”
The talented Villa Novan, who won by more than four feet, copped the event during the preliminary round. She skipped the finals to concentrate more on defending her crown in the high jump.
“It was my second attempt,” she said. “I just wanted to focus on the high jump because I knew I had more competition.”
That competition came in the form of La Salle junior Dakota Dailey-Harris, the indoor state record-holder who last week defeated Pitts at the Mount Pleasant Invitational by tying a state mark with a height of 5-9. Pitts had a four-inch best in that meet with runner-up leap of 5-7.
In another classic showdown with Dailey-Harris, Pitts settled for second again, matching her PB of 5-7. Dailey-Harris claimed the title with a state and meet record of 5-9 ¼.
“I decided to move my steps 10 steps instead of eight and I really worked on my turn at practice,” said Pitts, about her sudden transformation to a national-caliber jumper. “I knew I had to try and beat Dakota. I really tried hard to catch up with her or beat her. She definitely motivated me to jump higher.”
Smithfield senior Liam Hillery placed second in the 3,000 in a gutsy race with eventual winner Ryan Meehan of Bishop Hendricken. Both runners broke the existing state-meet mark of 8:29.35 by former Westerly great Andrew Springer in 2009.
Holding off Hillery the final straightaway, Meehan claimed the title with a time of 8:27.02. Hillery was timed in 8:28.26. Although non-placing, Cumberland sophomore Trevor Crawley cracked the nine-minute barrier for the first time with an 8:59.93 clocking.
With his twin brother Kiernan Hillery acting as his rabbit in the early stages, Hillery set the pace at the beginning. With about a half-mile remaining, the Sentinel standout and Meehan broke from the pack and engaged in a two-man battle to the finish
“The race was a lot of fun,” said the Providence College-bound Hillery, despite vomiting a few times after finishing. “It was gutsy towards the end with us going back and forth…I made about three moves on him the last 400. He ran a really smart last 400. He covered my moves very well. It was just a sprint at the end and he got me.”
Cumberland senior Chris Duarte finished third in the 110 high hurdles with a quality time of 15.58. Duarte was tied with La Salle sophomore Nyuanru Ben for the No. 2 time in the state at 15-seconds flat. Top-seed Jarell Forbes, a senior from Classical, won Saturday’s race with a time of 14.83. Woonsocket senior Anthony Neal was fourth in 15.71.
“I am not exactly happy with the race,” Duarte said. “I think I could have done better. I had the Senior Prom last night and going to bed at 2 o’clock in the morning doesn’t help. I noticed that right away in the [semifinals]. But hey, I came back and got third and I’m going to the New England’s (based on a top-six finish).”
The Clippers’ Ryan Rei, a junior, was second in the triple jump with a distance of 44-5 ¼. East Providence senior Trent Depina copped the event with a leap of 44-8 ½. Rei also finished sixth in the long jump at 20-7 ¾.
Ponaganset had a trio of third-place showings from Mike Paquin in the javelin (158-8), Norman Diamante in the long jump (21-2 ½) and John Greenhalgh in the shot put (51-1).
Woonsocket junior Kailey Fugere, an all-state basketball player, took third in the javelin with a heave of 107-01. She was just two inches shy of runner-up Aishu Nambiar of Ponaganset.
FINAL KICK: Athletes from Pawtucket and its vicinity fared well in the meet. Central Falls senior Aleide Fernandes claimed two individual titles, winning the shot put at 39-0 and the discus with a throw of 121-5. She was also second in the hammer at 158-10. Shea senior Freddy Gobewole broke the tape in the 100 at 10.75 and Central Falls junior Steven Vazquez defended his crown in the high jump at 6-8...Chariho Regional won the boys' team title with a 66-60 win over second-place Bishop Hendricken. Ponaganset was the top local school, placing ninth overall with 26 points. La Salle Academy took the girls' crown, defeating runner-up Hope, 68-47. Central Falls placed eighth with 30 points and Woonsocket was 10th with 25.
RIIL State Champion
At Brown Stadium
Top local individuals
Javelin – 3. Mike Paquin, P, 158-8
4x400 – 6. Woonsocket (Jalen Evans, Jessie Charette, Alex Correia, Anthony Neal) 44.54.
Long jump – 3. Norman Diamante, P, 21-2 ¼; 6. Ryan Rei, C, 20-7 ¾.
100 – 1. Fred Gobewole, Sh, 10.75; 4. Evans, W, 11.1
110HH – 3. Chris Duarte, C, 15.58; 4. Neal, W, 15.71
HJ – 1. Steven Vazquez, CF, 6-8
TJ – 1. Trent Depina, EP, 44-8 ½; 2. Ryan Rei, C, 44-5 ¾; 5. Jessie Charette, W, 42-6.
Shot – 3. John Grenhalgh, P, 51-1
300IH – 4. Tom Kishkovich, MSC, 41.44.
200 – 2. Gobewole, S, 22.32; 3. Evans, W, 22.72
3,000- 2. Liam Hillery, Sm, 8:28.26.
Top local individuals
Hammer – 2. Aleide Fernandes, CF, 158-10
4x100 – Woonsocket (Marissa Gelinas, Latoya Dythe, Kaylnn Pitts, Sam Plante) 51.74
100HH – 1. Ali Sayles, MSC, 15.86; 2. Breigh Souliere, C, 16.12; 5. Nichole Haar, EP, 16.35
HJ – 2. Kaylnn Pitts, W, 5-7; 4. Amber Russell, C, 4-11; 5. Catherine Dominick, P, 4-11; 6. Sayles, MSC, 4-11.
TJ – 1. Pitts, W, 38-1 ¼; 4. Darian Dailey, EP, 35-8 ¼.
Discus – 1. Fernandes, CF, 121-5; 6. Kadijah Johnson, CF, 95-10.
200 – 5. Anjelique Cooley, CF, 26.77; 6. Saskia Morgan, S, 26.91.
Shot – 1. Fernandes, CF, 39-0
Javelin - 2. Aishu Nambiar, P, 107-3; 3. Kailey Fugere, W, 107-1.