BURRILLVILLE — Shortly before 1:15 on Sunday afternoon, six determined and focused young ladies will toe the starting line at Ponaganset High School, site of the Rhode Island High School Cross Country Championship meet.
Upon hearing their school announced, this same group of Burrillville High harriers will briefly abandon their position in favor of some well-deserved recognition. It’s tradition for teams to take several gentle and prideful strides after getting introduced, such acknowledgement serving as a fitting reminder of how far everyone has come since the official start of practice in late August.
For the Lady Broncos, the brief jog out and back to their designated area on the line serves as an opportunity to continue a season-long practice of sticking together through thick and thin. Undoubtedly, they will be focused on the task at hand, yet perhaps for just one ever-so-slight moment, each Burrillville contributor sets time aside to soak in what this T-E-A-M accomplished this fall.
“Smile to yourself when you do your run out because you have earned the right to be here,” is a message Burrillville head coach Marty Crowley figures to deliver prior to wishing his Bronco troupe good luck.
A grand total of six runners are listed on Burrillville’s roster. The buck truly stops at six, for there is no seventh, eighth or ninth Bronco runner waiting in reserve. When playing with a short deck, you have two options – either work within the parameters forced upon you, or splinter off in different directions.
Right from the onset, the 2013 Broncos understood that if they were going to send a team delegation as opposed to individuals to the state meet, unity was going to be paramount. So too was the understanding how the fifth and sixth runners fared was just as crucial as how fast the usual and dependable stalwarts crossed the finish line.
“It took all six of us to make states, which is pretty incredible,” Burrillville senior Morgan Allen said. “If the first two runners are doing their part, we still need everybody.”
Added junior Betsy Dumais, “Competing with six girls is difficult, but not impossible. We need every single person on this team to work hard every single race or else it won’t matter. We really do depend on each other, and that’s so important.”
Breaking down Burrillville’s roster is an exercise in understanding how each member fits into the team concept. It’s akin to putting a puzzle together – you need all the pieces, regardless of shape or size, to complete the task.
Dumais blazes the trail as the Broncos’ top runner; she captured first place in three of the four dual meets and is coming off a second-place finish at last weekend’s Class C meet.
“She went to running camp this summer and I think the light went on,” noted Crawley about Dumais.
Junior Kaidy Cornell ran for the late Skee Carter in middle school before deciding to concentrate solely on academics during her freshman and sophomore years at Burrillville High. She serves as the Broncos’ No. 2 runner.
“I’ve been trying to get Kaidy to run since freshman year,” said Crowley. “Very grateful she came out this year.”
Allen enjoyed a promising start to her cross country career, earning all-division and all-class recognition as a freshman. She participated in volleyball and cheerleading the next few years before returning to the program as a 12th grader.
“I wanted to come back. I belong here and I missed it,” stated Allen.
Allen and junior Lauren LaMontagne have gone back and forth as the Broncos’ third and fourth finishers. Rounding out this group are two 11th graders, Ruby Perry and Laura Fidrych.
“As much as our success is at the top, you look at someone like Laura,” said Crowley. “Her time at the class meet was five minutes faster than last year. She learned how to run and she’s very much into it.”
Burrillville received an invite to the states on the strength of a 9-2 record during the regular season, a mark good for third place behind Smithfield (11-0) and Cumberland (10-1). Crowley noted the Broncos ran two of the dual meets with just five runners, all of whom had to finish for team-scoring purposes.
The Broncos are one of six squads from the North Division that will be on hand at “The Reservation” come Sunday. It’s safe to say that none of their divisional rivals had to rely on six girls and six girls alone.
“It definitely took some of the pressure off, but I know we’re a good team and how close we are,” said Allen when asked about not having to worry about qualifying for states via the class-meet route. “There’s been a lot of improvement since the beginning of the year.”
Such closeness is apparent every time one of the Broncos’ top runners passes through the chute that signals the race is over for them.
“What I do and I know Betsy and Kaidy do the same thing is that after we finish, we grab water and go right back to the finish line and wait for everyone else,” said Allen.
“They all root for each other,” said Crawley. “If they’re done, they’re cheering for the next runner.”
“I know everyone on a personal level, so it makes me happy that can be close to every single one of them,” Dumais remarked.
This marks the fifth straight year and the seventh time in Crowley’s 11 years at the helm that the Broncos have sent a complete team to the final R.I. cross-country excursion of the season.
The latest state entry from Burrillville may be keeping up with its predecessors, but this particular unit succeeded in carving out its own niche, hence why bestowing a nickname such as the “Bronco Sextet” or “Burrillville’s Iron Six” may be in order.
“There should be a nickname because there are only six of us,” said Allen.
Perhaps that truly is the best way to sum everything up.
FINAL KICK: The girls’ state meet will commence at precisely 1:15 p.m. with the boys following at 2:15. … Team-wise, the Burrillville girls will be joined by Cumberland and Lincoln with Mount St. Charles represented by senior Megan Corbeil. … Team qualifiers for the boys include Cumberland, Lincoln and Mount St. Charles with Burrillville’s Zach Durand also participating. … The top six teams and top 25 individual finishers in each race automatically qualify for the New England Championships, set for next weekend in Manchester, N.H.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03