Cumberland runners leave no doubt

Cumberland runners leave no doubt

Cumberland High seniors Lizzie Pickering, left, Olivia Belt, second from left, and Bailee Brown, second from right, and sophomore Grace Carr take a turn in the woods during the opening mile of last Friday’s Northern Division meet at the Monastery. Brown took second place in the race and was followed across the finish line by Belt, Carr, and Pickering. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Cross country squads continue Northern Division reign: girls clinch seventh straight title with 79th straight win, boys claim fourth straight championship

CUMBERLAND – Cumberland High certainly rose to the occasion and brought out its best in its final – and biggest – Northern Division meet of the season.

In a showdown between unbeaten boys’ and girls’ cross country teams that drew a large crowd that was scattered around the Monastery’s 3.1-mile course, the Clippers were able to defend their division titles with ease.

First, the Cumberland girls claimed their seventh straight championship and extended their impressive win streak to 79 dual meets by capturing 13 of the top 15 places to blank the Sentinels, 15-50, and post a 20-43 win over another squad at the meet, Mount Saint Charles.

The Clippers’ deep stretch of victories is the longest active win streak in the state, and according to head coach Vanessa Molloy, the program’s success is not something that the runners take for granted.

“It is instilled in these girls when they come onto this program,” she said, before adding with a smile. “And obviously, they’ve listened so far.”

The boys’ race was a bit more competitive and offered some extra drama, with the Mounties also coming into the meet with an unblemished record. But when the Clippers swiped five of the top eight places, they were able to defeat the Sentinels, 16-42, and Mounties, 21-40, and sew up their fourth straight league title.

“We knew both teams were coming in really strong,” said boys’ head coach Kerrie Carpenter. “We knew Mount had some kids out front and Smithfield always has a strong team and a lot of depth.”

In the girls’ race, the winner was Mount Saint Charles freshman Emily Belvin, who concluded her dual-meet season with an undefeated record by clocking a personal-best time of 20:29. Belvin took the lead at the start of the second mile when the leader, Blackstone Valley Prep junior Lucy Noris, took a wrong turn on the course by following the arrows from another race that was taking place at the Monastery that weekend. She ended up placing sixth in 21:19.

The Clippers, meanwhile, saw their top four runners, seniors Bailee Brown, Olivia Belt, and Lizzie Pickering and sophomore Grace Carr, run in a pack for most of the race before taking the third through sixth places, and watching three of her 12th-graders lead the way in their final high school dual meet certainly delighted Molloy.

“Olivia was sick today,” reported Molloy. “We’ve had sickness – just the sniffles and not feeling great – but I told the seniors, ‘Just go out and enjoy it. It’s your Senior Day. Whatever you have, you have, but most of all, enjoy the race.’”

Brown eventually broke away from the pack and finished third in 20:45, and she was followed by Belt (21:01), Carr (21:03), and Pickering (21:08). After Noris finished, sophomore Emma Peterson (21:28), freshmen Grace Belt (21:30) and Summer Sartini (21:31), and sophomore Susanna Henderson (21:35) rounded out the top 10 for Cumberland.

But Cumberland wasn’t done. Before Smithfield could push its first runner across the line, Cumberland swept the 11th through 15th places, thanks to freshmen Gauri Rajesh (21:41) and Julia Laverty (21:51), senior Sarah Lanzi (21:56), freshman Anna Kalafut (22:09), and junior Sarah O’Connell (22:26).

In the boys’ race, Cumberland junior Henry Dennen, a Second-Team All-State runner last year, won the race in a time of 16:26 that topped Mount Saint Charles senior Ryan Slaney by seven seconds; sophomore Cole McCue place third in 16:41, and another Second-Team All-Stater, junior Ethan Carpenter, finish a second behind him.

Mount kept the outcome interesting when senior Ceejay Laquerre, who was on Carpenter’s heels, ended up in fifth place, but Cumberland junior John Walker grabbed the sixth spot in 16:54, and after Smithfield’s first runner, senior Ethan Maione, crossed the line in a time of 16:56, Cumberland senior Jake Gilson clinched the meet and the championship by finishing eighth in 17:11.

Also finishing among the top 20 for the Clippers were seniors Brendan Johnson (11th, 17:24) and Shane Johnson (12th, 17:25), sophomore Sam Kucal (14th, 17:32), senior Owen Molis (18th, 17:43), and junior Matt Picchioni (19th, 17:44).

“I’m super happy with the progression of the guys,” said Carpenter. “I ran the numbers and I think we had almost 20 guys hit PRs today.”

The Sentinels experienced a touch of bad luck earlier in the race when freshman standout Jason Padula lost both of his shoes in the woods and was forced to run nearly 2½ miles in his socks before ending up in 27th place in a time of 18:18. Nevertheless, even with a strong race from Padula, the Sentinels would have been hard-pressed to topple the Clippers.

“Cumberland ran very, very well,” said Bennett. “We competed and we had quite a few PRs out of a few people, but Cumberland’s a talented team – they’re ranked second/third in the state for a reason.”

Meanwhile, a short drive away at Lincoln’s Chase Farm, the Lincoln High boys’ cross country team was putting the finishing touches on an 8-4 campaign by racking up four vcitories, 15-50 shutouts of Central Falls and Woonsocket, a 16-47 win over North Smithfield, and a 17-46 triumph over North Providence.

Lincoln junior Ben Martins and sophomore Nathan Evans seized the top two spots, with Martins topping a field of 59 runners with a time of 17:34 and Evans finishing a second behind his teammate.

Senior Austin Balon placed fourth in 19:27, sophomore Cameron Surmeian took sixth place in 19:30, and junior Aiden Fletcher (19:47), senior Nathan Surmeian (19:49), and junior Pranjal Mathur (19:56) handily swept the eighth through 10th places with times under 20 minutes.

The six-member girls’ team, meanwhile, won its first two meets of the year by blanking Central Falls and Woonsocket by 15-50 scores. Freshman Sequoia Drolet continued her superb rookie season by capturing the race in 22:22, and junior Carson Cole also placed sixth in 24:29.

The cross country season continues on Saturday at East Greenwich High, with the state freshman meet at 9 a.m. and the state junior varsity meet at 11.

The state’s three class meets are scheduled for the following Saturday at sites to be determined, and the RIIL Championships will be held on Saturday, Nov. 14, at Ponaganset High.

Cumberland junior Henry Dennen gets ready to cross the finish line and win last Friday afternoon’s boys’ race in a time of 16:26. Off in the distance, seven seconds behind Dennen, is the runner-up finisher, Mount Saint Charles senior and Cumberland resident Ryan Slaney.
Cumberland High sophomore Cole McCue, left, and junior John Walker lead the pack through the woods during the first mile of the boys’ meet. McCue ended up in third place with a time of 16:41, and Walker finished sixth in 16:54.