High five for NCMS

High five for NCMS

The North Cumberland Middle School boys’ and girls’ cross country teams captured their fifth straight varsity state titles at Sunday afternoon’s RIPCOA Championships at East Greenwich High’s 1.86-mile course. The members of the boys’ team are, from left, Colin Peterson, head coach Sean Connolly, Ben Roderick, Aidan Neary, Blake Huard, Sam Henderson, Jack LaRose, and Nolan Rogalski. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
North Cumberland cross country squads capture fifth straight state titles

EAST GREENWICH – For the first time in five years, the North Cumberland Middle School boys’ and girls’ cross country program did not have an individual winner in the varsity races at Sunday afternoon’s RIPCOA Championships at East Greenwich High. Heck, North Cumberland only saw one varsity runner place among the top six finishers.

But for a program that has traditionally placed a heavy value on its “team-first” and “hard work” philosophies, the only things that mattered at the end of the afternoon were the shiny state championship plaques the boys’ and girls’ teams proudly received during the post-meet ceremony.

Both squads captured their fifth straight state titles before a large gathering, but did so in different fashions. The girls’ team placed five runners among the top 15 finishers – without anyone cracking the top six – and ran away with their championship by scoring 48 points, 97 less than second-place Westerly. And the boys’ squad, which was led by Jack LaRose’s third-place finish, saw four of its runners wind up in the top 30 and the team total 91 points, 69 less than runner-up Western Hills.

“They’ve been working really hard,” noted second-year head coach and former Cumberland High standout runner Sean Connolly. “Our team mission this season has been, ‘What you put into something is what you get out of it. Therefore, what you do matters.’ All the kids are wearing their shirts today with our mission statement on their backs. Every season is different, and I think that in the end, regardless of the results, the kids worked extremely hard and I’m proud of them.”

In order to continue their impressive streak of state championships, North Cumberland had to take care of business on a two-mile course that the runners were somewhat unfamiliar with, but Connolly and his young group came into the meet with a neat strategy that obviously paid dividends at the end.

“The first mile was about getting out there, but kind of letting the other teams dictate (the race),” Connolly admitted. “But when it came to the second part of the race, I said, ‘We have to make our move because there are going to be kids that are extremely strong. But if we run to our ability that we’ve been running over the course of our season, then I think we’re going to be in good shape.’”

LaRose was clearly in good shape in placing third with an impressive finish that thrilled the fans lined up along the final 100 yards of the course. After St. Philomena’s James McCarron convincingly claimed the race in a time of 10:21.7 and De La Salle’s Grady McGinnis placed second in 11:04.7, LaRose took third by outkicking three other runners down the stretch. His time of 11:04.7 nipped Ferri’s Jason Padula by 0.8 of a second, Wickford’s James Masterson by 1.4 seconds, and Narragansett’s Bowen Henderson by 1.9.

One person who had a front row seat to this four-man battle was North Cumberland’s Sam Henderson, who placed seventh in a time of 11:13.9. Not too far behind him was Ben Roderick, who seized 13th place in 11:28, and after Nolan Rogalski finished 29th in 12:01.8, Aidan Neary sealed the championship by placing 45th in 12:22.7.

Also placing in the top 60 were Lincoln’s Logan Halliwell (17th place, 11:36.8) and Marcus Miller (32nd, 12:09), McCourt’s Brandon Araujo (37th, 12:17.5), Lincoln’s Samuel Rodrigues (57th, 12:28.7) and NCMS’s Colin Peterson (58th, 12:29.2).

As for the girls’ team, the winner of the race was from Cumberland, De La Salle Middle School’s Kiley DeFusco, whose time of 11:24.4 was 25.3 seconds faster than the runner-up finisher, Westerly’s Erin VonHousen. As a 6th-grader for NCMS last year, DeFusco took fourth place in the state meet, 20.8 seconds behind VonHousen, who placed third.

NCMS’s first runner across the finish line was Charli McCue, who took seventh place (and was the race’s first sixth-grade finisher) in a time of 12:28. Her teammate, Rose Tuomisto was 3.2 seconds behind her in eighth place, and Lucy Biggs (11th place, 12:41.9), Grace Belt (12th, 12:43), and Gauri Rajesh (15th, 12:49) soon followed with the placements North Cumberland needed to sew up its title.

Four more local runners placed in the top 50: De La Salle’s Bridget Casey of Cumberland (16th, 12:57.7), North Cumberland’s Emily Bourke (22nd, 13:21.5) and Julia Laverty (31st, 13:27.7), and Lincoln’s Sequoia Drolet (44th, 13:38). Casey overcame a fall earlier in the race to break into the top 20.

North Cumberland also captured the boys’ and girls’ junior varsity championships – both jayvee teams had won three state titles in a row from 2015-17 before settling for second places last year.

The boys’ squad placed five runners in the top 10 and gave the fans an exciting finish to watch: Owen Dennen and Ben Goodrich went all-out in the final 100 yards to win their race, but Dennen captured it in a time of 12:20 that edged Goodrich by a half second.

NCMS’s other scorers were Justin Day (7th place, 12:54.5), Sage Beauregard (9th, 12:57.4), and Ethan Dwyer (10th, 12:58.6).

The girls, meanwhile, swept the top five places behind Molly Enestvedt (13:30.9), Samantha Jacinto (13:42.7), Leanna Parrillo (13:50.7), Delaney Kennedy (13:58.6), and Abby Bishop (14:07.4).

The members of the girls’ team are, in front from left, Charli McCue and Rose Tuomisto; in middle row, Lucy Biggs, Emily Bourke, Grace Belt, Julia Laverty, and Gauri Rajesh; in back, head coach Sean Connolly.
Cumberland’s Kiley DeFusco proudly shows off her state championship plaque after capturing first place in the girls’ varsity race at Sunday’s RIPCOA Championships at East Greenwich High.
DeFusco, who is a 7th-grader at De La Salle Middle School, topped a field of 279 runners by covering the two-mile course in a time of 11:24.4.