CUMBERLAND – Listed as a freshman, Kiley DeFusco has wasted little time in fitting in with the Cumberland High girls’ cross-country program.
After posting a 22-second margin of victory in the freshmen 4K Injury Fund race, DeFusco on Tuesday passed her first varsity dual meet with flying colors. She closed with a first-place time of 20 minutes, 10 seconds as the Clippers ran their state-best winning streak to 82 consecutive victories over Northern Division opponents.
“I went out at a slower pace and tried to pick it up as the miles piled up,” said DeFusco.
“We all love running with her. She pushes all of us during practice,” said Cumberland junior Grace Carr about the DeFusco Effect and how its had a profound impact on a team that’s now under the direction of first-year head coach Marty Crowley. “I’ve always been one of the younger runners on the team, but it’s nice to now be a leader and take her under my wing and show her the ropes of high school running.
“You don’t often see it where a freshman is the No. 1 runner on the varsity team, but she’s a great asset and really going to help us when the championship races roll around,” added Carr.
Closing in 20:49 that was good for runner-up status, Carr was the only female runner besides DeFusco to dip below 21 minutes in a meet that also featured North Smithfield, Burrillville, Woonsocket and Blackstone Valley Prep. Cumberland grabbed 10 of the first 11 placements with Burrillville junior Haley Allen momentarily interrupting the sea of blue with an eight-place finish (22:01).
DeFusco is no stranger to success on the cross-country trails. As a seventh grader, she won the state middle school championship while attending De La Salle – the middle school that’s associated with La Salle Academy. She enrolled in North Cumberland for eighth grade where she also attended as a sixth grader.
“We only had four dual meets and didn’t have a state meet,” said DeFusco about last year’s cross-country season that was impacted by the pandemic.
Turning the page to life as a high school runner, DeFusco noted, “I feel like I’ve been able to fit right in and the other freshmen on the team feel the same.”
Speaking of ninth graders, Cumberland received strong showings from Rose Tuomisto (fifth, 21:31) and Emily Bourke (sixth, 21:37). Finishing behind DeFusco and Carr was sophomore Summer Sartini (third, 21:10) and junior Susanna Henderson (fourth, 21:18).
How's this for improvement on the boys’ side? Tuesday saw Cumberland junior Cole McCue establish a personal-best clocking of 16 minutes, 10 seconds that was 22 seconds faster than his time at the Injury Fund Carnival. Similar to the Injury Fund, McCue was the first runner to complete the course as the Clippers saw their first four finishers post sub-17-minute times.
“I felt like today was my day,” said McCue. “It definitely comes down to all the training we’ve been putting in.”
Stated Cumberland head coach Kerrie Carpenter, “Cole is someone who went through a lot of growth during his first few years of high school. Whether we were lifting or training, you’re building muscle but they’re also saying to wait because they’re growing and stretching. He grew tall over a very short period of time, but he’s skilled and very determined. He’s on-point right now.”
Rounding out the top-five for the Clippers was senior Henry Dennen (second, 16:34), senior John Walker (third, 16:53), junior Sam Kucal (fourth, 16:56) and junior Anderson Jacinto (fifth, 17:05). Cumberland claimed the first 12 placements.
“It’s great to see what we have. I love running together,” said McCue.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03