Kipyego, Mongeau repeat as First-Team All-State selections

Kipyego, Mongeau repeat as First-Team All-State selections

Left, St. Raphael Academy senior Darius Kipyego, shown at the start of the boys’ race at last Saturday’s state meet, finished fourth in a time of 16:00.07. Right, SRA senior Rachael Mongeau, #254, exits the woods with a small lead over East Greenwich High sophomore Rylee Shunney during the girls’ race. Mongeau became a three-time First-Team All-State runner by placing fifth in 18:37.35. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Shorthanded SRA boys’ cross country squad grabs another sixth-place finish at state meet

GLOCESTER – With his number two runner in a walking boot because of an injury he suffered in a soccer match and his number five runner also unable to race, St. Raphael Academy head cross country coach Chris Magill had no idea what to expect from his boys’ team at last Saturday’s RIIL championship meet.

But the Saints brought a “next man up” mentality with them to the starting line when they lined up side-by-side with the state’s best runners, and thanks to some excellent performances on Ponaganset High’s 3.1-mile course, they were able to take sixth place for the second straight year.

And that wasn’t the meet’s only headline news for the Saints. Senior Rachael Mongeau became a three-time First-Team All-Stater by taking fifth place in the girls’ race in a time of 18:37.35, and her classmate, Darius Kipyego, repeated as a First-Team All-State pick by placing fourth in the boys’ race in 16:00.07.

Kipyego’s effort, which saw him use his 800-meter speed in the final 200 yards to keep La Salle Academy senior Alex Maxwell in his shadow and top him by 1.53 seconds, certainly gave the boys’ team a boost in a significant meet that saw the Saints produce 171 points – just five shy of the teams that tied for fourth, Cumberland and Chariho.

“Our seven guys ran exactly the way they were supposed to run in their splits,” noted Magill. “I’m just so proud of them. We were missing one of our big stars, Devan Kipyego, and my son, C.J., but we got just a remarkable performance from the guys who showed up today. They did their jobs and I’m very proud of them, and their future looks great with only one of them graduating.”

Of course, that “one” is Kipyego, the Saints’ nationally ranked middle distance runner who will continue his track and field career at Iowa State University. He finished behind La Salle Academy senior Jack McLoughlin, who won the race in a time of 15:27.32, Bishop Hendricken senior Evan Reynolds, who was 5.84 seconds behind McLoughlin, and La Salle senior Chase Leach, who placed third in 15:34.98.

While McLoughlin, Reynolds, and Leach broke away from the rest of the field in the first mile and battled each other for the lead throughout the race, Kipyego decided to stay well behind them and basically run by himself until Maxwell tried to catch up to him on the course’s hill.

“I just wanted to keep my head down and focus on my own race,” he recalled. “I knew I wasn’t going to really be up there, and it was kind of tough being by myself, so I just grinded it out.” During the final 200 yards, “I had a lot left in me,” Kipyego added, “and I used that 800 speed to cross the finish line.”

With Kipyego’s younger brother, Devan, out of action, junior transfer student Jack Pereira stepped up as SRA’s number two runner and finished 26th in 16:42.43, and rounding out the scorers were sophomores Pedro Mayol (33rd, 16:53.14), Andrew Worden (51st, 17:33.12) and Kaydn Reilly (74th, 18:17.57).

“My fifth guy came through big,” Magill noted of Reilly. “His time was 18-low, and his previous best was 18:37, and all those seconds count in a tight race like this.”

In the girls’ race, Mongeau didn’t follow Kipyego’s strategy from his race, as she stayed on the heels of the top three runners, East Greenwich sophomore Reese Fahys, who won the race in 17:43.51, La Salle senior Kaylie Armitage, who placed second in 17:58.53, and Moses Brown sophomore Sophia Gorriaran, who took third in 18:14.07.

But just when it looked like the Monmouth University-bound Mongeau was going to end up in fourth place, East Greenwich sophomore Rylee Shunney managed to catch up to Mongeau in the final quarter mile and grab that spot in a time of 18:25.97.

“Right when the gun went off, I was looking for Kaylie and them so I could stick with them for a little bit and see how it felt, what they were planning on doing,” recalled Mongeau. “I kind of fell back a little bit, just to not kill myself, and I ran alone for a good mile-and-a-half. Right toward the end, (Shunney) caught me, and I kind of stayed on her back until the end, and she just kicked it in.”

“St. Ray’s has never had a girl finish First-Team All-State three times,” added Magill, who also doubles as the program’s unofficial historian. “In some respect, she’s the best cross country runner in St. Ray’s history. If you look at the full body of work over four years – a two-time Class C champion, a two-time runner-up, and what she’s done (at the state meet) – it’s just amazing.”

“She always sticks her nose in there, and today was no different,” continued Magill. “She wanted to run with the top runners, and I said, ‘Go for it. You’re a senior.’ Could she have run for fourth (place)? Sure, but she wanted more than that, and at the end of the day, she hung on for fifth.”