CUMBERLAND — Prior to Saturday’s race, Louis Raffetto never ran the Yo Raymond Memorial 5K. He just knew it was on an out-and-back course and, after arriving at the Cumberland event, he knew there was a challenging incline at the finish.
Raffetto had a chance to test that quarter-mile stretch from a different perspective shortly after the gun was fired at Camp Ker Anna.
“We just flew down it,” he said. “I definitely wanted to be a little cautious coming back.”
Keeping that strategy in mind on the scenic five-kilometer course, Raffetto stayed within striking distance of fellow Boston Athletic Association (BAA) teammate Chris Magill throughout the race and then stormed past the Cumberland runner with less than a tenth of a mile remaining to capture the individual title with a time of 16 minutes, 39 seconds. The 38-year-old Magill, a two-time winner of the race and the course-record holder (16:14), was a few strides behind for second at 16:40.
Running solo for most of the race, former Cranston West star and URI senior Haley Mathewson copped the women’s crown with a new course mark of 20:40,
good for 17th overall among the nearly 200 participants. Lauren Lapierre, a recent Cumberland grad and soon-to-be freshman at URI, was second and 21st overall with a 21:29 clocking.
Raffetto, 29, never led until he made his decisive move at the crest of the incline on Reservoir Avenue. He started mentally preparing himself for the challenging finish about two miles into the race with Magill holding about a five- or six-second advantage.
“Once it was sort of Chris and I and I was back a bit, at that point I said, ‘Well, if I catch up to him, I am not going to blow by him or anything because I know those hills are coming,’” he said. “Once I did catch him, I sort of sat right behind him to see what his reaction was.”
With the rolling hills complete, Raffetto then surged past Magill and held on for the victory in the closest finish in the race’s five-year history.
Finishing third overall with a time of 17:31 was last year’s runner-up, former Woonsocket High standout Cameron Richer. The Rhode Island College sophomore battled with the front-running Magill in the early stages of the race as the tandem went out quickly, covering the first mile just under 5:10.
“I just wanted to kind of test myself today,” Richer said. “I just wanted to go out hard and see what I could do. I knew how good Magill was so I just kind of hung with him as long as I could so I could run a good time.”
Raffetto, a 2:29 marathoner and Bentley College grad where he ran 4:11 for the mile, just bided his time at that point.
“Chris and [Richer] went out pretty fast at the beginning,” he said. “At the mile, Chris took off and he probably put six seconds up on me and the other guys (Richer and fourth-place finisher Glenn Miller of Uxbridge, 17:42) just started fading back. I’d say for a mile and three quarters he was up by about six seconds. Just after two and two and a quarter [miles] I could see I was slowly starting to get him. I caught him just before the hills basically and didn’t know what he or I had left. We sort of kept it slow up the hills and he took off at [.1]and so did I.”
Richer, who is coming off a solid first season at RIC where he dipped under 28 minutes for eight kilometers in cross country and had a season-best of 17:03 for the 5K distance on the outdoor surface, was content with how he ran in preparation for his sophomore campaign for the Anchormen.
“I had a really strong [season] last year,” he said. “I am very satisfied with how I did today. I got a good workout in [for the upcoming season].”
Mathewson, who averaged a 6:39 per-mile clip en route to her win, distanced herself from her competition by the time she reached the wide open stretch on Reservoir Avenue, a few tenths of a mile into the race.
The Yo Raymond 5K was the 20-year-old runner’s first (and only) race of the summer before she begins her final cross-country season at URI.
“I haven’t raced in a long time so I was just seeing what I could do,” Mathewson said. “I think down the hill there was one girl, but pretty much the whole thing I was just seeing what I could do, to be honest. It was more like a tempo run.”