BURRILLVILLE – The instructions were simple.
With the more-important class and state meets coming up in the next few weeks, Smithfield High coach Joe Bennett didn’t want his runners to go all-out at Thursday’s fifth annual Bronco Invitational.
Star runner Liam Hillery was told to use the race as a tempo run. As for the remaining members on his squad – “I basically told all of our guys that I didn’t want them to go past the threshold,” Bennett said. “I didn’t want them reaching so deep to outkick someone today and run their reserves down. They kind of all had orders to run comfortable – hard but comfortable.”
Running “hard but comfortable” during Thursday’s statewide meet that attracted more than 700 runners to Burrillville Middle School, the Sentinels ran away with the team title, defeating second-place Exeter/West Greenwich, 65-97. Cumberland was fifth with 110 points.
Smithfield had its top four runners crack 17-minutes for the five-kilometer distance, led by an eighth-place finish from senior Brian Musard, who clocked a time of 16 minutes, 19 seconds. Hillery, a senior, was next across the line in ninth at 16:33.1.
Cranston West senior Robert Allen copped individual honors with a course-record time of 15:27.79. North Providence senior Alex Gallo was second at 15:37.
“I am thrilled with the way the kids ran today,” Bennett said. "I am very happy for Brian (Musard). He knocked 34 seconds from his time last year, which is significant…Obviously Liam went out and ran 16:30-something. He ran very comfortable and that’s what we wanted out of him. He had an extra race in him (at the New Balance Ocean State Invitational) where he had to run hard.”
Comprising the scoring for Smithfield, which two weeks ago completed an unbeaten 11-0 dual-meet season by copping the Northern Division title, was Musard, Hillery, sophomore Ryan Pagliaro (12th, 16:47.2), senior Ryan Gerlach (14th, 16:47.2) and senior Zack Chadwick (27th, 17:25.12).
For Pagliaro and Grelach, it was their first time under 17 minutes.
“It’s a big barrier to break 17 minutes,” Bennett said. “I am thrilled that they got to experience what that feels like.”
The area was well-represented among the lead runners. The first area harrier was Cumberland junior Matt Sutcliffe, a sixth-place finisher with a personal-best 16:14.9 clocking. St. Raphael Academy junior Robert Parker was right behind in seventh with a time of 16:15.3.
Sutcliffe took a more conservative approach than how he ran this past Saturday at the Brown University Northeast Cross-Country Championships. In that race, he was third at a half mile and eventually faded to 29th with a time of 17:08.
He was 5:09 at the mile mark at the Bronco meet.
“Today, I tried to hold back a little,” he said. “I guess it helped.”
In the girls’ meet, Cranston West easily took the team crown with a 55-131 win over the runner-up Prout School. The Falcons had a 1-2 finish from twin sisters and sophomores Michaela and Alexis Hackett. Michaela sizzled to a course record of 18:46, while her sibling was timed in 19:03.3
The area’s best placement was turned in by Burrillville junior Anna Dumais, who toured the course in a school mark of 20:18.9, good for fifth overall. Ponaganset’s Casey McGrath was seventh at 20:21.9 and Mount St. Charles’ Lauren Deguire was 11th with a time of 20:43.6.
As a team, the host Broncos placed an impressive third in the field of 24 teams with 145 points. Sophomore Danielle Dumais (15th, 20:53.8), sophomore Morgan Allen (21st, 21:08.1), sophomore Lizzie Rogers (50th, 22:43.7) and junior Cassidy Bowers (56th, 23:38) also scored for the Broncos.
“We did pretty darn good,” Burrillville coach Marty Crowley said. “Our kids have worked hard. We have very solid 1-2-3 runners. Our depth was key. Even though we have already qualified for states, they haven’t let up.”
“I am very proud of Annie,” he continued. “She got beat by four kids that are better than her. There is no shame in that. She’s getting better and better every race. I am very happy for her.”