PROVIDENCE — Central Falls High senior Steve Vazquez and Cumberland junior Trevor Crawley maintained vastly different outlooks about reigning in their respective individual events at Sunday's Rhode Island Interscholastic Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Vazquez had just captured the high jump crown with a leap of 6 feet, eight inches at Brown Stadium, yet he sat virtually alone on a steel bench, shedding tears, just yards away from the bar that failed him.
His ultimate goal was to leap at least 6-10, or – better yet – surpass the seven-foot barrier. He had tried to clear 6-10 on three separate attempts, even after he had won, but knocked the bar off its pegs on each.
“I'm never satisfied,” stated a melancholy Vazquez, who had just earned a distinct honor of gleaning his third state title in the same event. “It felt like I just lacked energy, but I kind of felt better once I got to 6-8.
“Even though I won the high jump for the third straight time, it's still frustrating; I wanted to jump at least 6-10,” he added. “It's a mental thing, I think, and also a technical thing. I believe I was unsure of myself. I was hesitating in the air; I was floating and waiting for something good to happen instead of going for it, attacking it.
“I've jumped 6-10 before in practice, and also at the Rick Schomp Invitational (at Chariho Regional High in Wood River Jct. earlier this spring), so I wanted seven feet. Obviously, it would be a milestone. The thing that bothers me is I jumped 6-8 when I won it sophomore year, and 6-8 again last year. Like I said, I think I was waiting for something to happen, but you can't do that in life. You've got to attack.
“I feel like I deserved a better height, but I'm just going to keep on practicing the way I have been. I'll continue to be on time for practice, working hard and going home to preserve myself. I think it's in me.”
Perhaps 90 minutes later, there was the Clippers' Crawley, who had just achieved a personal-best time of 8:42.17 in snagging the 3,000 meters – his first-ever R.I. indivdual championship. Immediately after crossing the finish line, he strolled to the chairs designed for all top-six placements to await their medals, took a seat, attempted to catch his breath and exhibited a lasting, satisfied grin.
Crawley, by the way, helped his Clippers attain an eighth-place tie with West Warwick with 31 points. Central Falls took 11th with 21.
“I'm pleased with my time,” he said before officials hung around his neck the gold medal. “My goal was to finish first, so the time was secondary. I would've liked the school record (a clocking of 8:37 set by Patrick Gillooly back in the early 1980s), but I wasn't too focused on it. I mean, I'm only a junior, so I've got next year.”
Crawley, the top seed in his specialty, trailed only briefly when La Salle senior Andrew Estrada grabbed the lead midway through the race, but the Clipper chose to take it right perhaps 50-60 meters later. At about the 2,100-meter mark, he began his kick and slowly increased the distance between him and runner-up Colin Tierney of Hendricken en route to the finish.
“I didn't want to look back too much,” he chuckled. “I knew with about 1,000 meters left they were starting to slow down, so I picked it up. I placed either eighth or ninth last year, and I ran an 8:59, so I'll take (the time). I trained a lot harder this year, so I'm glad it paid off.
“If anything, I was mostly worried about letting myself down,” he continued. “I knew I hadn't run the kind of time I was capable of, so I'm really psyched I did my PR by seven seconds. I also got my first state title, so it feels great.”
Athletes exhibited a wide range of emotions at these championships, which began in sunshine and ended with dark clouds overhead, not to mention cool winds.
Later in the day, Woonsocket senior Kaylnn Pitts' demeanor more resembled Crawley's after she reigned in the girls' triple jump, that courtesy of a 37-4 ¾ distance.
Her only peeve: She wanted to surpass her best-ever leap of 39-1, which she did at the indoor championships at the Providence Career & Technical Academy's field house this past winter.
“I think I could've done better; it wasn't my best,” said Pitts, who also finished third in the high jump (5-3) and anchored the Villa Novans' fourth-place 4 x 400-meter relay (also consisting of Jasmine White, Latoya Dythe and Marissa Gelinas). They hustled to a combined clocking of 50.90.
“I thought it was physical,” she added. “I didn't hit the board just right, and it's because my steps were off.”
Actually, Pitts had a lot of competition in that triple jump, as four other Blackstone Valley representatives placed in the top half-dozen. Central Falls senior Anjelique Cooley took runner-up laurels (37-0 ½), while Mount St. Charles junior Cassie Roberge mustered third (35-11 ½), fellow Warrior (and twin sister) Brianna Cooley fifth (35-9 ½) and Darian Dailey of East Providence sixth (34-9 ½).
Anjelique Cooley manufactured a solid state meet for the Warriors, as she also finished fourth in the high jump, ahead of Ponaganset's senior/junior tandem of Catherine Dominick (fifth, 5-1) and Sierra Smith (sixth, 4-11).
To her credit, Central Falls junior Tiffany Jenkins led all area athletes with a second in the high jump at 5-5.
“That's my PR by four inches in outdoor, only by an inch indoor,” Jenkins smiled afterward. “I was glad about getting the extra day of rest (the meet had been postponed from Saturday due to rain); I wanted to be off my right foot. I was tired because I had so much work to do during the week.
“It feels great because I'm an All-Stater now, and I improved in all my jumps.”
The Chieftains' Aisha Nambiar also nailed down a second-place finish, that in the javelin (118-8), and Tolman junior Veronica Wiggins did the same in the shot put (37-0 ¼).
Cumberland junior Kendra Plant placed third in the shot behind Wiggins (35-8), and junior Taylor Flaxington of Lincoln managed a third in the pole vault (8-6).
“I was shocked; I haven't jumped 8-6 all season,” Flaxington gushed. “If someone had told me I'd finish third at states before the meet, I would've said, 'No way! It's not possible.' I think I did well because it was a combination of being here at states and seeing all the competition, and also because I desperately wanted to plate top six.
“Last year, I didn't clear any height, and I promised myself I wasn't going to do that again.”
In the boys' pole vault, Clipper senior Ryan Dube had to settle for second behind No. 1 seed Nick Tyler of Portsmouth. He catapulted himself to 13-6, while his rival assembled a winning height of 14-0. (Ponaganset senior Nick Saccoccio snared third at 12-6).
“Nick and I have been battling back and forth the whole year, but he came out on top,” Dube stated. “I was really excited last week, when I won the Hendricken Invitational at 14 feet. That was a PR for me by a foot-and-a-half. I had a huge breakthrough at practice the week before. I'd line myself on the runway and told myself just to lean back at the highest point of the jump; I sailed over the bar.
“I'm disappointed because I wanted the state title, and I know I can do better,” he continued. “I know I've got more height in me. I want to get on a bigger, thicker pole to propel me higher; in fact, I can't wait. The good news is I have another shot at the New Englands (slated for Saturday at Thornton Academy in Saco, Me. The top five athletes in each event qualified to compete in that meet).
Stated Tom Kenwood, the Clippers' veteran mentor: “I thought Dube) did great. This is a toss-up event, as both he and Nick are very good vaulters. Nick was the odds-on favorite (at 13-9) to win until last week, when Ryan cleared 14 feet and broke our school record (formerly set by David Bowler in 1991) by eight inches.
“I knew he could do it because he had in practice,” he added of the 14-foot milestone. “He was over it here, but just little, minor details got in the way. It was mostly his takeoff. He may have been a little inside, which has everything to do with the penetration (into the vault box).”
Cumberland senior Ryan Rei admitted he took full advantage of the extra day of rest on Saturday, and he needed it, as his school's Senior Prom was held Friday night. He placed second in the long jump (21-5) and third in the triple jump (43-2 ¾).
Recording other top placements in the boys' events were East Providence sophomore Ryan Williams, who took second in the 200 (22.49) and fourth in the 100 dash (11.31); and Central Falls sophomore Tyshon Ashe, who managed third in the 400 (50.30).