Clippers step up on state’s big stage

Clippers step up on state’s big stage

Cumberland junior Olivia Belt, left, gets ready to exit the woods and set her sights on the final third of a mile at last Saturday afternoon’s RIIL Championships. Belt not only earned Second-Team All-State honors by placing eighth in a time of 19:27.78, but she also helped the Clippers take fifth place in the standings. Cumberland sophomores Ethan Carpenter, center, and Henry Dennen placed among the top 13 runners to earn Second-Team All-State honors and help the boys’ team place fourth in the standings. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Second-Team All-Staters Belt, Carpenter, Dennen help cross country teams advance to New Englands

NORTH SCITUATE – A season after both the Cumberland High boys’ and girls’ cross country teams were unable to place among the top eight teams at the RIIL Championships, the Clippers bounced back in a very big way at last Saturday afternoon’s state meet.

Led by sophomores Ethan Carpenter and Henry Dennen, who landed Second-Team All-State honors by placing among the top 13 runners, the boys’ squad grabbed fourth place for the fourth time this decade by scoring 154 points in the 19-team field.

And the girls’ team, which also saw junior Olivia Belt earn Second-Team All-State recognition, as well as four girls place among the top 43 runners, took fifth out of 18 teams with 159 points.

And the news only gets better. Both teams will head to Saturday’s New England Championships at Wickham Park in Manchester, Conn.

“We wanted to climb from where we were last year and then try to get a spot for New Englands, and we did that, so I’m very pleased,” said boys’ coach Kerrie Carpenter, who in her first year as the Clippers’ mentor last season, saw her team improve from 15th place in 2017 to ninth in 2018.

“Two years ago, we were sixth, but we didn’t have a race as good as today,” noted girls’ coach Vanessa Molloy, whose Clippers had placed 10th in last year’s race, but notched their best finish last week since their third-place showing in 2015. “I was happy that they pulled it together.”

On an afternoon chock-full of highlights, Belt delivered the first in the girls’ race, which kicked off the day’s action, by finishing eighth in a time of 19:27.78. That was a monster improvement from her 69th-place finish of 21:52.89 at last year’s state meet.

Belt did everything she could to break into the top seven near the end of the race, but she wound up finishing 6.05 seconds behind the 7th-place runner (and the eventual final First-Team All-State selection), Pilgrim junior Emmanuelle Degos.

“I felt really good up until the last half mile, when I was definitely feeling it, but I’m happy with how I ran,” Belt added. As for her pursuit of Degos, “I was definitely chasing her down at the end. I gave it everything I got. That was all I could do.”

Cracking the top 30 were junior Bailee Brown, who placed 25th in 20:10.22, and senior Shakira DePina, who grabbed 30th place in 20:33.38. Rounding out the scoring were freshman Grace Carr, who finished 43rd in 20:55.11, and senior Adah Anderson, who missed last season’s meet, but came back to place 63rd in 21:35.71.

“I’m so happy for Adah,” added Molloy, who also saw junior Lizzie Pickering take 69th place in 21:51.21 and sophomore Chloe Jacinto place 87th in 22:18.81. “She pulled it together today and scored for the team. She’s had a rough go of it, so this was a reward for her.”

As for her team’s mindset in this meet, “We mentally held back a bit,” Molloy said. “We knew we had a job to do. We needed to step it up emotionally and we did. You don’t change your fitness in a week, so it was just getting their minds into it and letting their bodies know they can do it.”

“Our training helped us a lot today,” Belt added. “I think we all felt confident coming in and we raced as well as we could today.”

While Belt dramatically improved her time from last year’s state meet, so did quite a few runners on the boys’ team, starting with Ethan Carpenter. After taking 72nd place last season in a time of 17:56.66, Carpenter took 11th place last Saturday in 16:17.86.

And Dennen, who had placed 48th last season in 17:30.88, finished 13th this time around by also chopping more than a minute off that time with his clocking of 16:21.53.

“Our goal is always to climb,” said Kerrie Carpenter, whose Clippers joined Mount Hope as the only boys’ teams with no seniors among their top seven runners. “And it’s really exciting to see how far they climbed. We had guys that ran today that, looking at their times from last season, had PR’ed by almost two minutes.”

Sophomore John Walker was the next CHS runner across the finish line, placing 42nd in 17:13.39, and not far behind him with the rest of Cumberland’s points were juniors Owen Molis (49th, 17:18.53) and Jorge Rocha (53rd, 17:21.66). Freshman Cole McCue (58th, 17:25.49) and junior Jake Gilson (68th, 17:34.48) also broke into the top 70.

“Today was more about the team,” said Ethan Carpenter. “We go all in all year to go all out now, and that’s what we did.”

Also competing in the boys’ race was Lincoln, which took 14th place and was sparked by senior Nick Gaitanis, who took 52nd place in 17:21.36, and Chris Lezon, who finished 62nd in 17:26.78. Sophomore Ben Martins (83rd, 17:50.95) and senior Brian Roy (91st, 18:03.97) were the Lions’ next two finishers.

The girls’ race also saw two more runners from area schools answer the starter’s gun. Blackstone Valley Prep sophomore Lucy Noris, who got off to a strong start, ended up taking 56th place in 21:26.73, and Lincoln senior Abigail O’Hern finished 74th in 21:58.49.