BURRILLVILLE – It is the inescapable fate of any good high school team.
There is inevitable roster turnover that comes at the end of each season with the loss of the graduating class. The boys and girls cross country teams at Chariho, however, did not lose just key pieces after last fall.
With the graduation of two of the best runners the school has ever seen in Jake Kilcoyne and Bryce Kelley – not to mention standouts on the girls side in Liz Hansen and Abby Dandurand – the Chargers come into 2013 with some major shoes to fill.
With the dawn of their Southern Division schedules on the horizon, both Charger squads are making their final preparations for the 2013 season following last Saturday’s RIIL Cross Country Injury Fund Carnival at Burrillville Middle School and feel as though they are ready to move on without their graduated stars.
“We’re pretty pleased where everybody came in in terms of doing their summer homework,” said boys team coach Bill Haberek, whose team finished second in the Varnam Elliot Race Saturday. “We like what we see. We have some veterans who are stepping up and likewise with some of the younger guys.
“…We hope to be in the thick of things when the last meet rolls around”
Chariho girls coach Diane Leith-Doucett echoed similar sentiments.
“Our team’s bigger than it’s ever been before. We have 24 girls on the team, six of which are freshmen. That’s really good to have a big group of younger kids coming up,” she said. “We did graduate our top two athletes from last year, but we picked up a couple, a few that were on the team made big strides from last year.
“…Our team is a much tighter team as far as they’re all running a little more intact, so that also helps with the racing. It will also help some of the newer athletes who haven’t had a ton of experience racing a full 5K. It will give them some people to pace off of during the race.I’m really looking forward to the season.”
Led by a fifth place finish Saturday by Stephen Gencarelli, Haberek will look to a core of eight to guide the Chargers as they look to improve upon last year’s third place finish in the ultra competitive Southern Division. Gencarelli will be joined at the top by fellow quint-captains Alden Andrea, Matthew Drummond, Andrew Sardelli and Teal Migliaccio, as well as juniors Matt Tierney and Andrew Ferrigno, neither of whom raced on Saturday.
While they may not possess the talent of Kelley or Kilcoyne, Haberek is hoping that his core’s ability to run in a tight pack will help the team score.
“We had six guys within a minute, which is good,” said the coach. “It’d be nice to have seven or eight guys within a minute and then get that compression down to maybe about 35 seconds or so.
“…I think at the end of the season it’s going to be hard for me as the coach to think about who’s the No. 2, 3, 4 guy because I think they could switch around. They’ve shown a lot of improvement. All eight of them, I think they’re going to really mix it up and I’m excited to see if in some meets we can get closer to 20, 30 seconds and have most everybody there, five to seven guys.”
Depth will also be key for Leith-Doucett’s squad, but while the boys team is led by a group of experienced upperclassmen, the girls top core will be highlighted by younger and more raw talent.
Junior Isabel Baker is the Chargers’ top returning runner from 2012 and will be joined at the top this fall by sophomore Pam Lelli, who was the varsity’s fifth best runner last fall, and fellow junior Caroline Dukstra, a veteran of the Chargers track team who will be running cross country for the first time this fall.
Seniors Paige Ross, a four-year runner, and Delaney Silvestri, entering her second year with the squad, also figure to be in the mix, as does freshman Natalie Keefe, who finished 19th in the Freshmen Race Saturday.
With the new additions and improvements by the returning runners, Leith-Doucett is hoping her team can first improve on last year’s fourth place finish in the Southern Division, putting them in position for a better finish at the state championship meet.
“The girls are pretty amped up and pretty focused on trying to break into that top three [in the division],” said Leith-Doucett. “That would be a real great way to get into states without having to worry about the class meet as much.”
“…By the end of the season, we’re hoping to come in 11th, 12th, that range at the state meet. We’ve been 13th the last couple years in a row, so we’re looking to place up above that. It would be really great and the girls are really motivated.”
Both teams will participate in the Twilight Relay this Friday at Cumberland’s Tucker Field as their final tune up for the official start to their 2013 season Monday with their first home, dual meet against Narragansett and Exeter-West Greenwich at 4 p.m.