Pawtucket athletes ink Letters of Intent to D-I universities

Pawtucket athletes ink Letters of Intent to D-I universities

Pawtucket native Maddie Tetreault holds a bouquet of flowers in the colors of the University of Rhode Island after she signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her swimming career with the Rams during a ceremony last Friday at La Salle Academy. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Track star Kipyego ends suspense by picking Iowa State; Tetreault decides to continue swimming career at URI

PAWTUCKET – Four student-athletes with ties to Pawtucket and multiple First-Team All-State honors on their resumes made their plans to continue their careers at the Division I collegiate level official last Friday.

Pawtucket native and La Salle Academy swimmer Maddie Tetreault and St. Raphael Academy seniors Darius Kipyego, Rachael Mongeau, and Amaya Dowdy signed their National Letters of Intent during ceremonies held by their respective high schools.

Tetreault signed her NLI to the University of Rhode Island that morning inside La Salle’s Alumni Dining Room, while Kipyego, Mongeau, and Dowdy shared the spotlight that afternoon inside the Saints’ Alumni Hall.

Mongeau, who will continue her distance running career at Monmouth University in New Jersey, and Dowdy, who will take the next step in her basketball career at UMass-Lowell, had earlier made their commitments to their respective schools, but Kipyego, who is a nationally-ranked middle distance runner, kept everyone in suspense with his decision until last Friday.

After Mongeau and Dowdy spoke to the gathering, inked their NLIs, and took pictures with their families and coaches, Kipyego strolled to the signing table and lined up caps from Penn State, Iowa State, Virginia, and the University of Southern California along the edge of it.

A minute after he addressed the crowd, Kipyego reached for the red Iowa State cap, which along with the Virginia hat, was in the middle of the table, and he placed the cap upon his head as his head coach, Chris Magill, joined him at the table wearing a Cyclones cap of his own.

“They were all great schools and it was a really tough decision,” Kipyego explained. “But I really just felt at home (at Iowa State). Everything just clicked right away, and from the first time I talked (with Iowa State head coach Martin Smith), I could tell that I was really comfortable with this coach.”

One of the most sought-after high school track stars in the country, Kipyego received countless offers from some of the nation’s elite programs. After doing his homework, leaving no stones unturned, and narrowing his choices to four, he admitted that he finally made up his mind on Sept. 27 and kept his decision private until last Friday.

“It was hard for me to bring it down to four schools, to be honest,” said Kipyego, who is the state record holder in the outdoor 800 meters (1:48.82) and indoor 600 (1:19.65) and 800 (1:52.55). “Just to get it down to one was very difficult.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kipyego was unable to take any official visits, and he admitted that he never stepped foot in Iowa, noting with a smile that “I heard it’s very flat with corn fields.”

“But the coach did give me a personal virtual tour and brought me around the campus,” he continued. “I want to study engineering and he took me through everything there and it was good to see that aspect. I actually got to see the guys on the team too, so that was pretty cool.”

Four hours before Kipyego announced his decision, Tetreault took center stage at La Salle for a 15-minute ceremony. One of 16 student-athletes from the Providence private school to ink an NLI, Tetreault admitted in September that she was interested in URI, Miami University of Ohio, the University of Delaware, Cornell University, and Drexel University, but in the end, the Kingston school won out.

“After talking to a lot of coaches and schools, URI started making its way up the list,” added Tetreault, who is a three-time state champion in the 500-yard freestyle. “I started thinking, ‘This may actually be where I want to go.’ After I looked at all the pros and cons of the other schools, it helped make it an easier decision on where I wanted to go.”

Tetreault, who also competes for the Bluefish Swim Club in Attleboro, also noted that the members of the Rams’ coaching staff have a good relationship with her club coaches, and while she wasn’t able to visit any of the other schools on her wish list, she did visit the Rams’ campus last year and take part in a few Zoom calls with the coaches and swimmers.

Back at SRA, Mongeau, who is regarded as one of the greatest cross country runners in the Saints’ history, took a weight off her shoulders by picking Monmouth over the other school that was very high on her radar, Iona College. Magill ironically ran at Iona after he graduated from SRA and enjoyed a superb career there during the mid-’90s.

“I was definitely stuck between those schools,” added Mongeau, who earned First-Team All-State cross country honors for the third time in her career at last Saturday’s state meet. “Both are amazing, but I feel like I will fit in more at Monmouth and be more of a part of that team. Right now, they have a really strong building process and a new coach who’s been working very hard on the cross country team, so I’m really excited to be part of that process.”

While Mongeau’s decision was a tough one, Dowdy’s was easier, as she chose the first school to reach out to her and whose head coach, Tom Garrick, is a native of Warwick who went on to play at URI and spend four seasons in the NBA, mostly with the Los Angeles Clippers.

“After these other coaches heard that I accepted (UMass-Lowell’s) offer, they were trying to make me change my mind,” admitted Dowdy, “but UMass-Lowell was the first school to make me an offer. They really wanted me and they talked to me a lot.”

Last season, the two-time First-Team All-State center averaged 15.5 points and a dozen rebounds per game, reached the 1,000-point mark in her career midway through the season, and helped the Saints win the Division I-C regular-season championship.

“It’s close to home, and I’m just happy everyone can come and see me play,” noted Dowdy. “I’ve been playing basketball since I was 7, and all the AAU tournaments and all the work I put in finally paid off.”

St. Raphael Academy seniors, from left, Amaya Dowdy, Darius Kipyego, and Rachael Mongeau wear the caps of the colleges they will attend next year during last Friday afternoon’s NLI ceremony inside the Saints’ gymnasium.