WOONSOCKET – When Woonsocket High senior thrower Tarik Robinson-O’Hagan announced a couple of weeks ago that his top three choices to continue his athletic and academic careers were Cincinnati, Kentucky, and Mississippi, some members of the state’s track and field circuit openly wondered if the All-American was on his way to Kentucky.
Last November, his good friend and former Woonsocket football and track and field teammate, Logan Coles, decided to spend the next four years of his marvelous career with the Wildcats, and that led some people to predict that Robinson-O’Hagan was going to follow his footsteps to the Midwest.
But Robinson-O’Hagan ended that speculation two weekends ago during the football team’s playoff game against Burrillville. He was seen sporting an Old Miss towel from his waist, and when it fell out of his uniform during a play in the game, a few Burrillville players took notice of it and congratulated him on his decision.
Three afternoons after the game, Robinson-O’Hagan joined his family in a National Letter of Intent signing ceremony at a table in the corner of the Novans’ gymnasium and confirmed that, yes, he was heading to the Southeast Conference to throw for the Rebels. He admitted that his final three choices “were all neck and neck,” but the reason he chose Old Miss was a simple one.
“I feel like Coach (John) Smith fits me the best,” he said of the veteran Ole Miss throws coach. “His program fits the way I want to throw, and compared to the other programs, his program is the best for me. I personally feel like that with his program, I’m safe enough to go to the Olympics and actually call myself an Olympian, so that’s why I chose him.”
Make no doubt about it, Robinson-O’Hagan, who wrapped up his junior year as the national’s 2nd-ranked thrower in the hammer (236 feet, 9 inches) and the weight (76-5½), wants to be able to throw after his collegiate days are over and at the sport’s highest levels for years to come.
“In the long run, he’d like to make a career out of it if he could,” said Woonsocket throws coach Marc Piette. “He really does love throwing. The (Kentucky and Cincinnati) coaches are great, but in the long run – talking to the coaches and researching what they’ve done in the past – Coach Smith looks like the best fit for him.”
“School-wise, (the three schools) are all in the same area,” admitted Robinson-O’Hagan. “They will make sure I get a degree and succeed in life and in school. But on the sports side, I feel like sticking with Coach Smith is the best option.”
Robinson-O’Hagan, who wore an Old Miss football t-shirt to the signing, with the last name and number (10) of one of the team’s top alumni, former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, was asked if he talked to Coles about his decision. Did Coles try to attract him to the Wildcats?
“Who wouldn’t want to whisper in their best friend’s ear to come throw at the same school?” Robinson-O’Hagan said. “We took over high school, why not take over college? But it came down to coaching, and in his heart, I think he knew where I was going and he wasn’t mad or devastated.”
Robinson-O’Hagan’s family, meanwhile, was elated with his decision, and his mother, Keila, bought him an Ole Miss towel and a mask during their visit to Mississippi in late October.
Speaking of the towel, “it wasn’t showing too much” when he took the field for the Novans’ playoff game on Oct. 7 against the Broncos, which saw Burrillville post a 26-0 victory. “I just played in the game with it to see if people actually realized it.”
Robinson-O’Hagan is the 17th student-athlete from Woonsocket High since 2014 to receive either a Division I or II scholarship to continue their throwing career, and like most of those athletes, he signed his NLI right away so he can fully focus on his studies and working toward putting up some eye-popping throws during the upcoming winter and spring seasons.
“No one’s going to be asking me, ‘Where are you going? Let’s see some throws,’” remarked Robinson-O’Hagan. “Now I can concentrate on throwing. I started practicing (last Tuesday) and I’m already where I’m at from when I stopped throwing, so that’s a really good thing.”