Indoor track program takes Pride in ‘little success stories’

Indoor track program takes Pride in ‘little success stories’

Blackstone Valley Prep freshman Lucy Noris, shown in action during a cross country meet last fall in Burrillville, claimed the 1,500 meters at last Saturday’s Small Schools championship meet in a time of 5:06.82. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)
Noris makes BVP history by winning Small Schools title in 1,500

CUMBERLAND – When Blackstone Valley Prep head coach Tom Leger found out on Jan. 21 that his fledging boys’ indoor track and field team finally captured its first Northern Division meet, he didn’t pop open any champagne bottles or joyously parade around the Providence Career & Technical Academy field house in celebration.

Defeating not only Ponaganset, 39-24, but also Tolman, 38-13, was a nice way for his Pride to end their inaugural dual-meet season, but in Leger’s view, wins and losses haven’t dictated the overall success he’s seen his first-year program enjoy this winter.

“I honestly do not even check the scores,” he admitted last Friday afternoon after a workout on the second floor of the school. “When I was told that the boys won, I was like, ‘Oh, did we?’ That’s not at all what I’m looking at or paying attention to as a coach. I know which of my kids ran well, and I know every PR and when it happened and by how much it happened, and that’s all I care about.”

“I don’t want us to look at our season and say, ‘Oh, we went 2-8 this season,’ because that doesn’t tell the whole story,” he continued. “This season has been a really positive experience, and we have had little success stories throughout it. When one of my guys runs a 3:30 in the 1,000 (meters) and gets last place and then the next week runs a 3:20 and still finishes last, but gets a big improvement, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Leger saw plenty of little success stories last spring when BVP rolled out its inaugural boys’ and girls’ outdoor track and field teams, and the program became such a hit with the athletes that most of them have made up this season’s 33-member program, with 16 on the boys’ squad and 17 on the girls.

Like the outdoor squads, which competed solely in the running and relay events, the Pride are eschewing most of the field events, such as the weight throw and the high jump, and while Leger has a set of hurdles at his disposal, he doesn’t plan to introduce them to his program until the spring season.

One reason is because of a lack of training space. While BVP’s high and middle school basketball teams operate in the gymnasium, the Pride can be found working out either in the school’s cafeteria, sometimes on a taped-off circle that resembles a track, the carpeted lobby on the second floor for exercising, or outdoors and on the bike path when the weather cooperates.

“I have a really excellent, responsible group of kids,” Leger remarked. “They really embrace our workouts, and whatever we’re doing is a lot better than nothing. This sport didn’t exist here until this season, and a lot of them just hadn’t been athletes before, and just the idea of doing this and being part of a team is really cool to them.”

One of the Pride’s athletes will be competing at the RIIL Championships on Feb. 16 at the Providence Career & Technical Academy field house, freshman standout Lucy Noris, who at last Saturday afternoon’s Small Schools championship meet, made history by becoming the first BVP athlete to win a class title, as she took first place in the 1,500 meters in a time of 5:06.82.

“Lucy runs like five miles every morning on her own,” Leger said with a laugh. “I’ve really been working with her one-on-one a lot, setting a plan and recommending different workouts for her. She really wants to go for it, so we plan on what her weekend workouts and morning runs look like.”

Joining Noris at the class meet was her classmate, Folake Olagundoye, who competed in the girls’ 55-meter dash and finished 11th in 7.92 seconds, and junior Patrick Pires, a star player on the boys’ soccer team, who took 13th place in the Class C meet’s 300 in 40.05 seconds and 15th in the 55 dash in 7.32 seconds.

“Folake had done track in middle school, but really improved a ton this season,” said Leger. “I really worked with her a lot on her starts and just thinking through different points of the race. She had never run the 55 before because she never ran indoors, but she went from an 8-3 to a 7.9, which is a huge jump in that event.”

Pires, meanwhile, was the Pride’s top athlete in their victories over Ponaganset and Tolman, as he captured the 300 in 39.54 seconds and took second in the 55 in 7.22. The Pride also picked up third-place finishes in that meet from Glenn Mensah in the 55 (7.23) and Jorge de Leon in the shot put (28 feet, four inches).

While de Leon has been scoring points for the Pride in the shot, an event they didn’t compete in last spring, Darius Winfield has also participated in another event that’s brand new to the program, the long jump.

“He just literally jumped into the long jump after never practiced it before,” said Leger. “I worked with him with a couple of drills and then he went out and jumped 16 feet.”

Not only will the Pride continue to hone their skills in those events, but they will also add the discus and the javelin, as well as the other jumping and hurdling events, to their repertoire in the spring. Leger, who plans to hold most of his workouts at Central Falls’ Higginson Avenue complex, said that the only event his team will not compete in is the hammer.

“That event is a little too specialized,” he added. “But I’m really glad that the school was able to get us more equipment this year and help us try to really grow the program.”