There’s no quarterfinals. There’s no semifinals.
The postseason for the cross-country season begins today when runners statewide congregate at Ponaganset High School for their respective class meets. The following Sunday, Nov. 7, qualifying teams and individuals are back at the Chieftains’ “Covered Bridge Trail” for the state championships.
All the league meets. All the invitationals — in-state and beyond — are all geared for these final two meets.
Defending champion Bishop Hendricken, a tenth-place finisher at the prestigious Manhattan Invitational at the beginning of the month, is once again the clear-cut favorite for its 26th Class A title and 19th state crown. Chariho and La Salle Academy could be in the mix, too, for top supremacy.
The girls are led by three-time defending state titlist La Salle, who will more than likely engage in a dogfight with strong contenders Barrington, Cranston West and North Kingstown.
Who looks to be among our top area schools and individuals?
The Smithfield boys, who copped the Northern Division title a few weeks ago, should be able to defend their Class C title this weekend. The Sentinels are coming off a strong showing at last week’s Bronco Invitational where they easily copped the team title with a 65-97 win over second-place East Greenwich. Even though some of the heavies in the state were not there, such as Hendricken and Barrington, Smithfield still looked sharp in its final tune-up before the class meet with four runners dipping under 17 minutes for the five-kilometer course.
Senior Liam Hillery, who used the Bronco meet as a tempo run and finished eighth overall, has potential for a top-five finish at the states and a win at the class meet. His biggest competition this weekend at the Class C’s will come from St. Raphael Academy junior Robert Parker, the Mount St. Charles tandem of Patrick Butler and Brian Deer and his Sentinel teammate Brian Musard.
The Smithfield girls will also be aiming for back-to-back crowns in the Class C competition. This year’s squad had less than 10 members. But it proved that quality is often better than quantity and manufactured a splendid fall campaign that was highlighted by its second straight Northern Division title.
In their final two races, the Sentinels will be down to six runners and will be missing a key person in junior Emily Meinertz, who is injured.
SHS head coach John Marchand believes his team is still a legitimate contender to take the class title and run solid at the state meet.
“At this time of the season, if you have been training the right way, a lot happens,” he said. “We miss Emily, but we’ll run with what we have. Everyone can approve. Track and cross country are great sports for that reason. From the number one runner to last runner, you work with them all and they all improve throughout the season. And, we are not done.
“We never go in with a negative attitude. You don’t go on the line, not going into it and ready to race well. We’d like to come in first (at the class meet). We have to run it exceptionally well. We can do that. I have confidence that the girls can do that, even without Emily. The mentality has to be when we go to that race, we are together and we are going to run the best race that we possible can. That’s what the goal always is.”
Cumberland, which finished second to the Sentinels during the dual-meet season, appears to be peaking at the right time as does a vastly-improved Burrillville team and consistent-steady Mount St. Charles.
The Broncos were the top local school at their own invitational, placing third. Junior Anna Dumais and her sophomore sister Danielle Dumais lead a squad that finished the league season at 7-3.
Burrillville placed second behind Smithfield at last year’s class meet and has potential to repeat that performance this weekend. Cumberland, unfortunately, competes with the likes of La Salle, Cranston West and North Kingstown in the Class A meet.
In comparison to the competition, the Clippers should fare well. They are coming off an eighth-place showing at the Bronco Invite where they were missing three of their top seven varsity runners - freshman Kerry Connolly, junior Megan Calitri and No. 1 harrier, senior Lauren Lapierre.
Promising freshman Hannah Tavares had the best finish at the Bronco meet, clocking a time of 21:48 for the 5K race. Cumberland had four of its runner break 22 minutes last week.
“I have ten girls to choose seven from going into the class meet, so I am really excited,” said CHS coach Joyce Bonner. “The kids are progressing. They are running really well…There are three other runners that could (have run under 22 minutes at Burrillville) that didn’t run. My biggest problem is who is going to be the top seven. That’s not a bad thing for a coach to have to decide.”
In the Class A boys’ meet, look for Cumberland to place among the top six. Junior Matt Sutcliffe, who turned in a personal-best 5K effort at Burrillville last week with his sixth-place time of 16:14.86, should finish high. Sophomore Trevor Crawley also has potential to come up big.
Lincoln, which has mastered the art of pack running this season, has a legitimate shot to earn its second straight title in the Class B race. In last year’s meet, the Lions edged second-place finisher South Kingstown, 80-83.