Hard work pays off for WHS throwers

Hard work pays off for WHS throwers

Bridget Damon, left, Marissa Henley, center, and Derin Paskanik show off their collegiate apparel before working out in the Woonsocket High locker room last Thursday afternoon. The trio signed National Letters of Intent to continue their throwing careers at Division I and II colleges. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)
Henley (Kent State), Damon (Wagner), Paskanik (Post) set sights on continuing superb track and field careers in college

WOONSOCKET -- When it comes to elite high school throwers signing Division I and II National Letters of Intent to continue their careers, not many public schools in New England can top the number of athletes the Woonsocket High track and field program has sent to the next level over the past six seasons.

This spring, the Novans’ number increased to nine when three more throwers, Marissa Henley, Bridget Damon, and Derin Paskanik, made their collegiate plans official, with Henley (Kent State University) and Damon (Wagner College) heading to D-I schools and Paskanik attending D-II Post University.

Last season, Kurowski signed her NLI to attend D-II Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and the Class of 2017 saw Jared Briere (Oregon), Jacob Greenless (Virginia Commonwealth), and Dylan Cote (Mississippi State) take their talents to D-I universities).

Connor Fugere, who graduated from WHS in 2014 and continued his career at Northeastern University, and Cheyanne Nalle, who picked up her high school diploma the following year, went to D-II Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

“All those kids worked hard when they were here,” Woonsocket throws coach Marc Piette said next to his throwers’ workout in the school’s weight room last Thursday afternoon. “You have to work hard. If you don’t work hard, you won’t get much. It’s a pretty simple philosophy.”

Henley was the first of her classmates to decide on her school, doing so late last fall after paying visits to Iowa State and Towson University before checking out Kent State, which competes in the Mid-American Conference and is best known to New England Patriots fans as the alma mater of wide receiver Julian Edelman.

“I said to myself, ‘Oh, this is different,’” she recalled. “I liked it a lot. When I visited there, the first thing I saw was that there was a lot of diversity, and that’s what I wanted in a school. And (seeing) all the signs, pictures, and little pamphlets, (you could tell) it was a very green school.”

“And then I met the team and I fell in love with them,” she continued. “The first day, it was friendship at first sight. One of the team members was like, ‘You fit in like a puzzle piece, so why don’t you just come here?’ And I like the (throws) coach. (Nathan Fanger) is very similiar to Piette, because he’s lenient, but strict at the same time, and that’s what I wanted.”

Henley, who plans to major in international relations-comparative politics with a minor in Pan-African studies at the Ohio school, is currently ranked 13th in the nation in the four-kilometer hammer with a throw of 163 feet.

This past winter, Henley excelled in the 20-pound weight throw, placing sixth at the state indoor meet, fourth in the New England meet and 23rd at the New Balance National Indoor Championships in New York. Her best throw was 50 feet, 8½ inches.

While Henley visited three schools, Damon looked at only one – Wagner, which is located in Staten Island and is a member of the Northeast Conference.

“It was the best opportunity for me,” said Damon, who is also getting an academic scholarship to parlay with her athletic funding. “And they also have a really good psychology program, which is what I’m going into, and they offer a lot of internships. Since Wagner is right outside New York City, I thought it would be the best place to get a good internship in my field.”

Paskanik will also be “close to home” this fall when he heads to Post, which is a CACC (Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference) school in Waterbury, Conn.
Paskanik, who is nationally ranked 19th in the 12-pound hammer (188-10) and ninth in the 16-pound hammer (145-3), looked at several D-I and D-II schools before finalizing his decision.

“Post had the field I wanted and offered the major that was best suited for me,” said Paskanik, who is looking to study Sports Marketing with a concentration in Communciations. “This was my best option.”