CUMBERLAND — When he entered last year’s Arnold Mills Road Race, Brian Doyle wasn’t planning on winning the four-mile event. After a grueling high school season, his final year at Bishop Hendricken, he was just looking for a hard training run on the Cumberland course.
But midway through the race something happened. His adrenaline and competitive nature took over and he not only satisfied his goal of a quick tempo run, but actually won the popular Fourth of July race with a time of 20 minutes, 52 seconds.
Doyle battled eventual runner-up finisher Tim Richard of Attleboro for the second half of the course and didn’t make his final surge for the title until the last downhill on Nate Whipple Highway, about 100 meters from the finish line. Richard was just four-seconds behind in 20:56.
“I just put in one final sprint,” he said.
After a much-deserved “break” from a successful freshman season at Northeastern University, Doyle will be back at Arnold Mills on Monday morning and his goal remains the same in the 43rd annual event.
“I don’t want to go all-out this part of the season, but if I am still contending at two miles, I will definitely go for it again,” he admitted. “Last year I didn’t plan to go all-out, but being in the race you’re competiveness kind of takes over.”
Doyle’s appearance at Arnold Mills will be his first race since he competed in the steeplechase for the Huskies at the New England Championships in mid-May. During his year at Northeastern, he won the New England Indoor Championships with a best of 8:26.34 for the 3,000-meter run. He also clocked a fast 14:53.41 for the 5K during the outdoor season that he felt could have been a lot faster.
“My coach and I thought that was 30 seconds from where I could have been,” Doyle said. “I found out later that I was low in iron. I thought I was just tired from running 94 miles that week.”
Since his steeplechase race in May, Doyle has eased up somewhat on his training. He was held back a few weeks ago due to minor hernia surgery, but has picked up his mileage and is starting to focus on his off-season work.
Doyle, the son of the late legendary R.I. marathoner Bobby Doyle, a former two-time winner of the event, has competed at Arnold Mills since he was a youth. He’s well aware that the competition is always stiff.
“It’s the best Fourth of July race in Rhode Island,” he said. “It always has been. There are always good people. You never really know who is going to show up.”
Race director and longtime Cumberland High track and cross-country coach Tom Kenwood heard word that one of his onetime stars, 2006 grad Bobby Hartnett, is planning on making the trek for the early-morning race.
Hartnett finished his collegiate season at Columbia University in 2010 where he ran sub 3:50 for the 1,500 and the 10K in the 32-minute range. Harnett’s last time at Arnold Mills was 2007 when he finished 14th overall in 22:11.
Five-time winner and multiple top finisher, Chris Magill of Cumberland, could once again contend. The 38-year-old former St. Raphael Academy star last broke the tape in 2006. He was second the following year and has been third the past two years. On June 5, Magill demonstrated that he still has some speed in his legs, running 15:51 (5:06 pace) at the Rhody 5K at Twin River.
There’s also a good chance that Magill’s occasional training partner and good friend Jim Dandeneau will return to his hometown race. The 43-year-old Dandeneau, a multiple all-stater for Cumberland in the 1980s and a two-time victor at Arnold Mills, was fourth in last year’s race.
Course-record holder and two-time winner Roland Lavallee, who christened the new four-mile route in 2005 with the current mark of 18:25, has indicated that he will not be at the starting line. The former Mount St. Charles standout and current cross-country coach at his alma mater has been focusing his attention on a qualifying spot at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January.
For the last three years, the women’s race was won by a Cumberland resident. In 2008, it was Kim Maguire that bested the field with her time of 24:42. Anja Rittling copped the top prize in 2009 at 25:26 and last year Yvonne Libano was the first to the tape with a 24:39 clocking.
Kenwood believes former Cumberland High standout Hilary Dionne could make a showing. If that happens, there’s potential for a fourth native of the town to win at Arnold Mills. Dionne, a 2003 CHS grad where she was a four-time all-stater in track and cross country, later starred at Dartmouth College. Earlier this month, the 25-year-old Dionne placed fifth among the elite field of the Rhody 5K with a solid 18:07 clocking.
Just like it has in the past, Monday’s race will begin at 9 a.m. The out-and-back course starts and finishes near the North Cumberland Fire Station on Arnold Mills Road, off Nate Whipple Highway. Registration on race day, which will take place from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. in front of the fire station, is $12 for adults and $10 for juniors. T-shirts can also be purchased. For those who want to beat the early-morning crowd, there will be a number pickup this afternoon at the fire station between 12-1 p.m.