Rao repeats as N.E. hammer champion

Rao repeats as N.E. hammer champion

Ponaganset senior Gianna Rao, shown holding her state championship medal that she won at the RIIL Outdoor Track & Field Championships on June 2, defended her New England title at last week’s championship meet at Mount Pleasant High. The Penn State University-bound standout won the event with a throw of 182 feet, six inches. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)
Penn State-bound PHS senior graduates with fourth regional title; Smithfield’s Ezeama, dosReis also claim All-New England berths

PROVIDENCE – Ponaganset High senior Gianna Rao put an exclamation point on a truly magnificent high school career at the New England Hammer Championships on Tuesday, June 5, at Mount Pleasant High’s throwing facility, as the Penn State University-bound standout defended her New England title with a throw of 182 feet, six inches.

For those keeping score, Rao will graduate with four state championships, four New England titles, and five All-American honors in the indoor weight and outdoor hammer throws, not to mention the numerous school, division, class, and state records she set along the way. Her personal-best hammer throw of 189-1 is currently ranked third in the country this spring.

Rao will not participate in this weekend’s New Balance National Outdoor Championships at the North Carolina AT&T complex in Greensboro, N.C. Instead, she will concentrate on earning a place on the U.S. Junior National team that will compete in the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) U20 World Championships from July 10-15 in Tampere, Finland.

Barrington junior Annika Kelly, who finished a distant second to Rao at the RIIL Championships that took place on June 2, made things interesting in last week’s meet by delivering a throw of 178-8 that was just two inches off her personal-best effort, which is currently ranked fourth in the nation, but that throw was only good for another silver medal.

Rao’s classmate, Megan Cook, followed up her fifth-place finish at the state meet by grabbing eighth place with a throw of 148-11, and Rao’s sister, freshman Aria Rao, finished 14th with a throw of 124-4. Also cracking the top 25 were two Smithfield sophomores, Kendra Ezeama (19th, 113-7) and Janasia Arvelo (22nd, 108 feet).

Last Saturday, a handful of local athletes took on the region’s best at the 73rd annual New England Track & Field Championships at the University of New Hampshire’s Reggie F. Atkins track and field complex in Durham, N.H., and Ezeama earned All-New England honors in the girls’ discus by placing sixth with a throw of 123-4.

Ezeama, who added a 12th-place finish in the shot put with a throw of 38-4½, also saw two of her classmates produce top-30 finishes, as Graesyn Fontaine placed 23rd in the triple jump (34-3) and Arvelo finished 27th in the shot put (34-9½).

In the boys’ meet, Smithfield’s Joe dosReis, a La Salle Academy junior distance runner, copped All-New England laurels by placing fifth in the 1,600 meters in 4:17.07, and Scituate’s Cameron Croce, a La Salle Academy senior who won the state shot put championship, also placed 14th in the shot with a throw of 50-5½.