Hard work continues to pay off for Ocean State Hammerheads

Hard work continues to pay off for Ocean State Hammerheads

Right, Jesse Houle, who graduated from Woonsocket High last month and will attend Ohio’s Walsh University in the fall, gets ready to throw the weight during Monday morning’s workout in the woods near the Dionne Track. Left, Logan Coles watches the flight of his hammer throw during Monday’s workout. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Ranked in top 10 in nation in hammer, Woonsocket’s Coles, Robinson-O’Hagan, Houle welcome return to competition

WOONSOCKET – Drive into the parking lot at Renaud Field and take a left before you reach the baseball field and you will come across a path in the woods that leads to a wide open field that sits near the Dionne Track and contains a fenced area for discus and hammer throwers to work on their craft.

Arrive at this field on a weekday morning and you will also come across a small band of teenagers known as the Ocean State Hammerheads.

This group, which features Woonsocket High track and field standouts and New England indoor champions Logan Coles and Tarik Robinson-O’Hagan and recent graduate Jesse Houle, has been tirelessly throwing in those woods since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the New Balance National Indoor Championships at the beginning of March, and shortly later, the entire RIIL spring season.

“I told them right after they canceled (the nationals), ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen,’” Hammerheads coach Marc Piette said last week. “‘We need to train as if someone was going to come up with a season,’ because we didn’t know if we were going to start at the beginning of May or at some other time.”

“I said, ‘Listen, I can’t be with you. but you guys have to get out there and get your throws in,’” Piette continued. “They couldn’t get to a gym, but a couple of them had some weights at home and they did as much as they possibly could. But they got out there and threw, the three of them together, and it was as if they formed their own little team.”

After three months away from competition, that “little team” of Coles, Robinson-O’Hagan, and Houle has finally been able to test its mettle, and this trio has proved that hard work always pays off at the end.

They have taken part in virtual meets, including last month’s NSAF (National Scholastic Athletics Foundation) Virtual Nationals, which saw Robinson-O’Hagan and Coles capture All-American honors – Robinson-O’Hagan took second place in the shot put with a 60-foot-4 throw, and Coles finished fourth in the 12-pound hammer with a throw of 219 feet, two inches.

They have been regulars at an RITCA throwing meet that takes place every Tuesday night at Alvarez High School in Providence, and they have crossed state lines to take on some of the region’s top throwers at two Throwhawks Mini Meets at Bowen Field in New Haven, Conn.

“The good news was when they started bringing in all those virtual meets,” added Piette, who has been back coaching his throwers since school ended on June 15. “It gave them something to train for, and they were very successful in those.”

At the first Throwhawks Mini Meet that took place on the weekend of June 19-21, the three throwers placed in the top five of the weight event with throws that are currently ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Coles won the event with a throw of 229-10 that has him ranked second in the country behind two-time defending national champion Trey Knight of Ridgefield, Wash., who leads the nation with a 261-7 throw.

Houle, who will be taking his talents to Ohio’s Walsh University this fall, finished fourth with a throw of 211-6 that has him in the seventh spot in the rankings, and Robinson-O’Hagan took fifth place with a throw of 202-4 that is good for 10th in the country.

Speaking of Robinson-O’Hagan, who won the shot put with a throw of 58-10¼ and took third in the discus with a throw of 155-3, he was the only thrower to head to the second Mini Meet on July 18, and he made plenty of news with his performance. Not only did he shatter a 49-year-old R.I. record in the shot with a winning throw of 62-8, but he also broke the school record in the discus with a 162-foot throw.

While Robinson-O’Hagan promises to attract plenty of interest from Division I colleges as he enters his junior year this fall, Coles has started receiving some monster scholarship offers. Southern Illinois University, which competes in the Missouri Valley Conference, was the first school to reach out to Coles with an offer, and last week, three Southeastern Conference universities, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Alabama, made their pitches to the WHS senior-to-be.

“It’s definitely been crazy having all these offers come in,” said Coles, who hopes to schedule some visits to those schools in the fall if the NCAA ends its dead period on Aug. 31 and allows college coaches to have in-person contact with athletes. “This is what you dream of as a little kid growing up. You’re like, ‘I want to go somewhere really big for college,’ and now that it’s here, it’s like, ‘Wow.’

“It was definitely surreal, especially when Alabama offered me,” he added. “That’s the school that everyone talks about, and they want me? It was super crazy.”

And it’s all the result of hard work, which has been a manor reason why Woonsocket High has seen 10 throwers in the past seven years receive D-I and D-II scholarships. Coles will be the 11th student-athlete, and Robinson-O’Hagan will be the 12th.

“I can’t be complacent with whatever I’m doing,” Coles said. “I always want to be getting better and progressing, whether we’re competing or not competing.”

Tarik Robinson-O’Hagan, who recently shattered a 49-year-old state record in the shot put during a meet in New Haven, Conn., also set a school record in the discus with a throw of 162 feet.