SMITHFIELD — The strategy was simple. Take it moderately easy the first half of the race and when the course hits the woods for the rolling hills, then go to work.
That’s the plan that Mount St. Charles Academy and Smithfield High had entering Monday’s Northern Division opener on the tough three-mile layout at Bryant University.
Both teams carried out those strategies, though the Mounties did it just a little better.
With senior Patrick Butler leading the way, Mount St. Charles claimed four of the top six placements and had just enough from its remaining varsity runners to hold off the defending league champion Sentinels, 26-31.
“Our plan is always the same. We want to go out conservatively on the uphill,” said Smithfield coach Joe Bennett, making reference to the quarter-mile incline that greets runners at the start of the race. “Early on, when we first adopted this course, we went out too hard and we lost it at the end … They (MSC) had the same plan as us today and they executed it a little better. They are a good team.”
Butler won yesterday’s race convincingly. He hung with a pack of three other runners, including Smithfield’s Ryan Pagliaro and his MSC teammates Andrew Knueven and Elijah Touisgnant, for the first half of the race. Once he hit the mile stretch in the wooded section of the course, he put on a surge and was never challenged, finishing with a modest time of 17 minutes, 47 seconds.
Pagliaro took the runner-up spot with a 17:56 clocking. Knueven (18:26) and Tousignant (18:28) were third and fourth, respectively. The Mounties also had a sixth-place finish from Matt Alexander (19:17) and completed their sweep in the meet, which also included Davies Tech, Central Falls and Woonsocket, with a 12th-place effort from Adam Bouley (19:42).
MSC head coach Roland Lavallee knew the race would be similar to last year’s against the Sentinels when recent graduate Liam Hillery led his teammates to a close verdict against the Mounties.
“To be honest, we know this course. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s really, really hard,” Lavallee said. “Last year the same thing kind of happened to him [Joe Bennett]. Hillery kind of controlled the pace and made it a slow race and kind of pulled away. This year I feel it was Patrick’s turn. I got to commend my second and third runners and the maturity and poise that they had. They followed right in there. They didn’t fall too far behind and didn’t over extend themselves and said we are going to have to go to war when we get to the woods, and they did their jobs.”
Butler, who was 21st overall at last year’s state championship, is one of the state’s best this fall. He had a productive summer of training, logging countless miles on the open roads and throwing in an occasional 18-miler.
“The summer went great. It was probably my best summer training I have had,” he said. “It started off with just base running and heavy distance, but nothing too heavy or strenuous. Then halfway into the summer I started working in some workouts and some long distance runs. It was just a nice easy flow into the season.”
“I am looking for top five this year (at the state meet),” he continued. “I don’t think I reached my potential in today’s race. Today’s race was kind of a warm-up as will the other dual meets. I’ll use them as warm-ups. Once I get into the bigger races, like the class and state (meets), that when I will open up. I definitely think I have potential for top five this year.”
Lavallee doesn’t doubt that his star runner can accomplish what former teammate Dan Appenfeller did back in 2009 by placing fifth at the states.
“I think he’s poised for a run at first team (all state) this year,” he said. “Dan Appenfeller was a big role model for these guys. Last year, [Butler] and the senior from last year, Brian Deer, then ran pretty much identical to what Dan did when he came in [fifth]. It was just that last year the race went out like crazy and the times were much faster. These guys proved that on any given year they can be right in the mix.”
During the 2010 junior high cross-country state championships, Smithfield easily ran away with the title.
Seven of those girls are on this year’s high school roster and based on what they did over the weekend and in Monday’s Northern Division opener, these fabulous freshmen could be turning some heads this fall.
Just two days after winning their race at the annual Injury Fund Cross-Country Carnival, the Sentinels’ talented ninth-graders were at it again yesterday afternoon at the Bryant University campus, sweeping the top three placements en route to a convincing sweep of Mount St. Charles, Davies Tech, Woonsocket and Central Falls.
Stephanie Mattson claimed individual honors with a time of 21:10. She was followed across the line by frosh teammates Rebecca Meinertz (21:40) and first-time runner Madison Saliba (22:01). The Sentinels wrapped up the meet with senior Rebecca Tellier finishing fourth at 22:22 and another freshman, Caitlin Paredes, placing sixth with 22:34 clocking. Mount St. Charles senior Lauren Deguire broke up the Sentinels’ party by taking fifth overall with a time of 22:29. Woonsocket’s Kristen Treganowan was 10th overall at 23:59.
“It’s a very good start,” said Smithfield co-coach John Marchand, whose team copped last year’s league title. “We have a very talented freshmen group, perhaps the best that we’ve had since I have been here coaching. It’s still a work in progress, which is good. Hopefully we stay healthy and continue to improve. We have a lot of work to do, but we ran great today.”
Mattson, who was a runner-up at the junior high states last year, switched places with Meinertz this time. At the Injury Fund meet, which the Sentinels defeated North Kingstown, 21-65, for the title, Meinertz won the race with her teammate placing second.
“That’s the intriguing part about it,” Marchand said. “I told people last week, I still don’t know who the No. 1 runner is on this team because they interchange so many times at practice by having great days. On any given day, it can be anyone even in the workouts…It’s hopefully going to be a very deep team and hopefully we’ll stay healthy and run as a pack. I think that will make the team better. That’s what we are preaching.”