Blogs | Eric Benevides

It's going to be an eventful winter season

The 3½-month odyssey known as the winter high school season officially began last Friday night when the state's boys' and girls' high school hockey teams took the ice for their league openers. This winter promises to be an eventful one for the 14 high schools we cover, and here are four items to keep an eye on.

1. Gianna Rao rules the weight throw again: The Ponganset High senior, pictured, who will continue her track and field career at Penn State, captured the state and New England championships in the weight and hammer throws as a junior, and she's expected to repeat this year. All eyes will be on her at this winter's New Balance Indoor Nationals in Manhattan, N.Y., as she looks to capture a national championship in the weight. She took second in last year's meet with a throw of 59 feet, 7¾ inches.

2. Great expectations for Ponaganset wrestling team: Could the Chieftains be the team to beat in the state? Ponaganset placed second to Cumberland in last year's state championship meet, but seven wrestlers who finished in the top five in their weight classes are back on this season's team. Seniors Sam Lynch, Cole Magill, and Richard Andrews will lead this experienced bunch.

3. Steve Gordon's final year as Cumberland's wrestling coach should be memorable: While the Chieftains should be outstanding again, so should the defending champion Clippers, who despite graduating a handful of their top wrestlers, is reloading for another run at the title. And with Gordon retiring this season – his 50th at the helm! – expect the Clippers to bring out their best and do whatever it takes to give their outgoing leader the sixth state championship of his magnificent career.

4. Cumberland boys' basketball team has a 'Big Three': For the next two seasons, the defending Division II champion Clippers promise to be the team to beat in their league, not just because they have two future 1,000-point scorers in junior center Jackson Zancan and junior point guard Tyler Kolek, but because they will have talented sophomore Dante Aviles-Santos, a transfer from St. Raphael Academy who is coming off a superb football season, in their backcourt as well. This will be a fun team to watch!

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