BURRILLVILLE – The tradition of excellence for North Kingstown High School cross country, both boys and girls, is long standing and well known throughout the state. It is also a tradition that is more than likely to continue through the fall of 2013.
As though there were much room for improvement coming off a year in which both teams were a perfect 8-0 during the regular season, after first and second place finishes in their respective races at the RIIL Cross Country Injury Fund Carnival Saturday at Burrillville Middle School, the Skippers may be poised to not just continue the school’s cross country tradition, but further the legacy this season.
“We’re really happy with where we are right now,” said NK girls coach Brian McNeiece. “Looking at the other teams, I think the field is stronger than it’s ever been. We had more girls on that course under 20 minutes than ever before [last year]. Most of those girls are coming back this year and then there are a couple new girls.”
NK boys coach Paul Tetreault had similar thoughts on his team.
“Overall, I was very pleased with the performances [Saturday],” he said. “I think some of the guys have been working hard this summer and it really showed and we had a few freshmen that ran exceptionally well, too, so it was a real good day.”
The Skippers will be returning a strong core centered around the team’s four captains – Dallin Smith, Robbie Rocchio, Chris Lenox and Jon Carney – and extends into a deep freshmen class that is ready to get back to contending for class and state titles and qualifying for the New England Championship meet.
Smith (third), Carney (fifth), Mike Toolin (eighth) and Lenox (12th) all placed in the top 15 as North finished second behind preseason favorite LaSalle on Saturday in the Laurie Boemker Race, but Tetreault expects juniors Joe Craven (who did not run in Injury Fund because of injury) and Alex Bowen, sophomore Nick Musumecki and senior Jack Hiebner to all play a role in the team’s success this season.
James Lawless (seventh) and Ethan Wyllie (eighth) both finished in the top 10 of the freshmen race on Saturday. They, along with fellow freshmen Marco Greco-Byrne and Brad Gaudreau, could also make contributions to the varsity squad before season’s end.
“I think we’re ready to reassert ourselves somewhat,” Tetreault said. “…I think we’re going to be relatively strong again this year because we have some pretty good runners, but we have some pretty good depth also. I think if someone has a difficult day on the course, guys are going to be ready to step right up and take their place.
“I would think we’ll do pretty well in our division and hopefully statewide we do pretty well with the goal of once again qualifying for the New England Championships.”
As promising as the boys’ start has been, the girls team has been that much better. The Skippers girls dominated the competition in defense of their Roy Race title from last season placing all of their top seven runners Saturday in the top 10 to once again take home first. Despite heavy losses at the top of their rotation after last season, with five of those top seven from Saturday being underclassmen, it is not just promise for this year North Kingstown showed in the Injury Fund, but promise for the future as well.
“We lost four really strong runners and leaders last season,” McNeiece said, “We’re coming in and the girls who were new last year learned a lot from them and they’ve kind of taken strides this year and the cycle goes on. I think we have a real strong group this year.
“We’re led by a lot of our sophomores, which is encouraging for years to come, and we have a couple of strong freshman as well. Things look good for our future, but we want to make an impact this year as well. It’s going to be tough. We have our work cut out for us for sure.”
Sophomores Bethany Nunnery, Alanah Gaudreau, Kate Thomas and transfer Hannah Niebel all topped the depth chart on Saturday along with seniors Jaxine Wolfe and Erin McManus. The Skippers backed up their dominant showing in the Roy Race with a strong, second place finish in the freshmen race behind Lila Suryanarayan and Jamie Hazel.
“I don’t know where that’s going to go,” said McNeiece of his freshmen, “but they have a lot of desire and talent, and they’ve been working real hard and they’re up there as well.
“They show a lot of promise in training. We’re actually surprised with how Lila did, she was the surprise of the day.”
Both the NK boys and girls squads will officially begin their 2013 season Monday when they travel to the St. George’s School in Middletown for a 4 p.m. dual meet against Prout and Middletown.