NORTH SCITUATE—For most teams at Sunday’s RI Cross Country Championships at Ponaganset High School’s Covered Bridge Trail marked the last race of the season.
That was not the case for the North Kingstown boys and girls teams, however, as both Skipper squads qualified for the New England Championships by virtue of their performances.
“We’re very happy with that,” NK girls coach Brian McNeiece said of his team’s third place finish. “It’s kind of what we were hoping for going into today and we’re really excited about the fact that we had four seniors graduate last year and the other girls kind of stepped it up there.
“We really lost a lot of our talent last year and the girls stepped it up and filled the void and they performed well today.”
“We knew we’d be hopefully somewhere in the mix and it was pretty tight between fourth, fifth and sixth,” boys coach Paul Tertrault said after his squad placed fifth. “We were fortunate to put ourselves in that position and to make our own breaks at that point.”
In the race for the girls state title La Salle narrowly edged out Barrington 36-39 in the closest state championship race in over 30 years, while the Skippers took third 16 points ahead of Cumberland.
Barrington sophomore Emma McMillan (17:42.87) defended her individual title by breaking the course record set just one week ago by La Salle’s Eliza Rego.
After battling through injury for most of the season sophomore Bethany Nunnery returned to form Sunday with a 14th place performance in 19:33.34.
“I had a lot of confidence in her today,” McNeice said. “It’s good she had confidence in herself because I knew last week was kind of like a breaking in race to get the cobwebs out so this week was the real thing and she was able to pull it off.”
“I worked so hard this summer,” Nunnery said, “and just the fact that I made All-State and had a real good race just feels amazing.”
While Nunnery’s performance was important, where the Skippers really pulled it off was by pooling together a tight pack of four runners that finished within four seconds of each other.
Senior Jaxine Wolfe (20:14.13) led the group in 27th, sophomore Alanah Gaudreau (20:15.69) followed in 28th, sophomore Hannah Niebel (20:16.74) was 30th and freshman state champ Jamie Hazel (20:18.21) rounded out the top five in 31st place.
“I’m impressed with them and it’s not like they back off either,” McNeiece said. “They ran fast.”
Junior Allie Reilly (20:31.20) and sophomore Kate Thomas (20:40.52) finished in 35th and 40th, respectively for the Skippers.
As for the NK boys team it was a little more spread out in its results but they got into New Englands thanks in large part to senior Dallin Smith’s eighth place performance in 16:21.33 and senior Robby Rocchio’s 20th place finish in 16:47.59.
“Dallin had a big race today and Robby both making All-State that was a huge plus for us,” Tetrault said. “They’ve done a lot of hard work over the summer and all season long and it finally paid off today.”
After getting its first two runners across, NK’s next three of seniors Jon Carney (17:11.84) and Chris Lenox (17:27.16) and junior Joe Craven (17:57.42) closed things out with finishes of 29th, 41st and 69th. Junior Alex Bowen (18:02.59) and sophomore Nick Musumecki (18:03.80) finished in 74th and 76th, respectively.
“Those are the guys that shut the door on everyone else for us to make it,” Tetrault said. “If any of those guys don’t have a good day then we’re in trouble and they were able to run well.”
Also competing at states Sunday were a trio of Exeter-West Greenwich runners, with two of them making New Englands.
Senior Katie Millar just snuck into Third-Team, All-State Honors after finishing the girls race in 21st place with a time of 19:47.16.
“I felt really good [coming in],” Millar said. “I’ve been training really well. I felt like I was going to do the best I could so that felt good.”
On the boys side, senior Mike Dampier wasn’t so lucky as he finished one spot out of All-State honors in 22nd with a time of 16:51.11 but was still good enough to qualify for New Englands. Dampier’s EWG teammate, junior Adam Sowden, finished in 65th place with a time of 17:51.40.
“I went out a little faster than I wanted to but you’ve got the fast guys up in the front and that’s just how it goes,” Dampier said. “I came through the two mile at the correct pace so I just brought it in as hard as I can and I’m happy with how I ran today.”
The New England Championships will be held Saturday at Derryfield Park in Manchester, N.H.
“We look be in good shape for New Englands next week,” McNeiece said, “because usually your fourth and fifth runners matter so much in a race like that so we’ll see what happens.”