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BURRILLVILLE â€“ Running in the Southern Division, it can be hard for a team to get noticed competing annually against the likes of perennial powerhouses Chariho, North and South Kingstown.
While they may not yet have reached that level where they are getting the same notoriety as the Skippers, Rebels and Chargers, coaches around the division will note the Prout boys cross country program is quietly become one of the premier programs in the Southern Division.
As the team gears up for the official start to the 2013 regular season next week, however, the Prout coaches are taking it one race at a time as they move towards the top of the cross country pack.
â€śEach year in the Southern Division, North Kingstown and Chariho are top teams in the entire state,â€ť said Prout boys team coach Tyson Edmonds. â€śWe try to compete with them as best we can. â€¦If you donâ€™t run your best runners against a good Prout team, weâ€™re going to be able to compete with you and win.
â€śWeâ€™re just trying to get between the tops teams in the state as we get better and better. I think we ran seven guys on Saturday under 19 [minutes]. The next goal is get closer to under 18 [minutes]. Thatâ€™s the way I look at it.â€ť
At last Saturdayâ€™s RIIL Cross Country Injury Fund Carnival at Burrillville Middle School, the Crusaders showed the potential to compete against some of the stiffer competition Rhode Island has to offer.
Competing in the Bill Gray Race, the Prout boys were in the thick of a nine-team field that included reigning New England champion Bishop Hendricken, and Southern Division foe and defending Class B champion South Kingstown, taking home a third place finish with an average time of 18:05.60.
Senior co-captain Luke Embry led the way, breaking up the Hawksâ€™ stranglehold on the raceâ€™s top 10 with a fourth place finish in a time of 16:34.92, the 12th best on the day. Junior Ryan King just missed out on running a sub-18:00 race with his time of 18:06.27, good enough to finish in the 13th scoring position (26th overall).
After spending his freshman year running JV, sophomore Jacob McConnell cracked the varsity lineup at the Injury Fund as the Crusadersâ€™ third best finisher, scoring in 18th place (32nd overall) with a time of 18:30.26, while the teamâ€™s other co-captain, Ryan Pinch, was close on his heels, just four seconds back, scoring in 20th (34th overall).
Junior Ryan Donovan rounded out Proutâ€™s top five just one spot behind Pinch, scoring in 21st (35th overall) with a time of 18:39.20. Matt Matrullo and Sam Chretien rounded out Proutâ€™s scoring positions as Matrullo scored in 24th (38th overall) and Chretien just one scoring place behind in 25th (42nd overall).
The Prout girls team faced an equally challenging task, participating in the Caswell Race, an eight-team field that included two-time defending Class B champion South Kingstown and 2012 Suburban Division winner Coventry High School, who was a perfect 11-0 last fall. The Crusaders came in third behind those two schools with a strong performance that saw them keep their top five runners in the raceâ€™s top 30 scoring positions.
Like with the boys, Proutâ€™s top girls finisher, senior Jess Elliott, finished the race fourth overall, completing the 3.1 mile loop in 19:51.14, the only Prout girl sub-20:00.
Fellow senior Victoria Matrullo was the teamâ€™s second finisher and the 18th overall to cross the finish line, bringing home a time of 22:22.36, while junior Courtney Moffit was third, scoring 22nd (23rd overall) with a time of 22:51.51.
Senior Kayla Harrington was not far behind, finishing in the 24th scoring position (26th overall) with a time of 23:10.34, while freshman Alexandra Beardwood rounded out the Crusadersâ€™ top five by scoring in 30th (45th overall), posting a time of 24:40.34.
Senior Sarah White and sophomore Amanda Nolan rounded out Proutâ€™s top seven, scoring in 34th (51st overall) and 37th (55th overall), respectively.
Results are nice, but as the season moves along, it is the progress in the team that is the real key for the Crusaders this fall.
â€śEvery year itâ€™s been a goal to make states and the last four or five years weâ€™ve made it,â€ť Edmonds said. â€śYou donâ€™t want to say thatâ€™s not a goal anymore, itâ€™s just understood. Weâ€™re just trying to become one of the teams that year in, year out has a good program and try to move up in terms of the rankings.â€ť
With the preseason coming to a close this week, both Crusader teams will run their first official race of the 2013 schedule this coming Monday. They will travel to the St. Georgeâ€™s School in Middletown for a 4 p.m. dual meet against North Kingstown and host Middletown High School.