Make no doubt about it, no sport garnered more buzz and attention throughout Woonsocket and North Smithfield this past year than track and field.
And no two athletes grabbed as much recognition, not only locally, but on state, regional, and national levels, as Woonsocket High’s talented throwers, Logan Coles and Tarik Robinson-O’Hagan.
Coles, who graduated last June and is continuing his career at the University of Kentucky, and Robinson-O’Hagan, who is a senior and heading to the University of Mississippi after he picks up his diploma, did it all in 2021, from winning state championships to breaking records and topping the national rankings in their events.
They are the 16th and 17th student-athletes from Woonsocket High since 2014 to receive either a Division I or II scholarship to continue their throwing careers, and they may be the best to ever come out of the Novans’ throwing program. Their spots in the WHS Hall of Fame will be awaiting them once they are eligible for the prestigious honor.
On the team level, no team raised as many eyebrows as the North Smithfield High outdoor boys’ track and field team. The Northmen, who are only in their fifth season as a varsity squad, took a surprising third place at the state championship meet with 42 points, trailing only the state’s two private-school juggernauts, three-time state champion Bishop Hendricken (119) and La Salle Academy (64).
Senior Aidan Beauchemin also became a two-time state champion in the 55-meter hurdles during the indoor season and the 110-meter hurdles at the outdoor meet, and his classmate, Matt Stamatelatos, won a state title in the outdoor 300-meter hurdles.
Without question, the amazing accomplishments of the Novans’ throwers and Northmen’s track team top this year’s best sports stories to come out of the area. Here’s a look at the Top 10.
Woonsocket’s Coles, Robinson-O’Hagan dominate throwing events once again
In an indoor season loaded with highlights, Coles and Robinson-O’Hagan ended it with a bang at the Virginia Beach Sports Center by taking the top two places in the weight throw and earning All-American honors at the Adidas Indoor Nationals. Robinson-O’Hagan also took third place in the shot put, an event he won at the RIIL Championships with a throw of 60-3/4.
Coles ended his final indoor season as the nation’s top-ranked thrower in the 25-pound (78 feet, 11¾ inches) and 35-pound (55-2¼) weights, and it was his throw in the 25-pound weight that made him a national champion in Virginia. Robinson-O’Hagan, meanwhile, was ranked right behind Coles in the 25-pound (76-5½) and 35-pound (54-7½) weight.
The top marks for both throwers spilled into the outdoor season, and at the state meet, Robinson-O’Hagan scored 26 points by capturing the shot with a state and meet-record throw of 64 feet, 10¼ inches and the discus with a 170-foot throw and placing third in the hammer with a throw of 222-2.
A month later, at the USATF National Junior Olympic Championships at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., Robinson-O’Hagan, who sported the colors of the Ocean State Hammerheads throwing club, picked up his fifth and sixth All-American honors of 2021 by capturing national titles in the boys’ ages 17-18 division’s hammer and shot.
And when the outdoor season ended, Robinson-O’Hagan (236-9) and Coles (235 feet) occupied the second and third places in the national rankings in the hammer, with the top-ranked thrower, Bishop Hendricken senior John Fay, holding the top spot by a mere inch over Robinson-O’Hagan.
As for this indoor season, even though it’s weeks old, Robinson-O’Hagan is already off to a dominant start. In the shot, he delivered a throw of 63 feet, 6½ inches that broke Classical legend Charles Ajootian’s 56-year-old state record by 13 inches and has him ranked second in the country in that event, and in the 25-pound weight, he unleashed an 81-foot-1 throw that put him atop the national rankings in that event.
North Smithfield’s hurdlers highlight success of 5th-year boys’ track program
Entering this year, only two athletes in North Smithfield High’s history had ever won a state individual championship, but Beauchemin etched his name into the record books, not once, but twice with his excellence in the hurdles.
A standout for the Northmen’s boys’ soccer team, Beauchemin joined junior Ray Marsella and Stamatelatos in making plenty of noise at the state indoor and outdoor meets, and in the outdoor meet, their efforts in the hurdles accounted for 34 points.
At last winter’s RIIL Indoor Championships at the Providence Career & Technical Academy, the Northmen grabbed three of the top four places in the 55-meter hurdles, with Beuachemin winning the event in a personal-best time of 7.96 seconds, Marsella placing second, 0.21 of a second behind Beauchemin, and Stamatelatos finishing fourth.
And in the 110-meter finals at Conley Stadium, the Northmen swept the top three places, as Beauchemin took the race in 15.19 seconds to nip Marsella by 0.05 of a second and Stamatelatos by 0.30.
Stamatelatos, meanwhile, turned around to capture the 300-meter hurdles in 41.03 seconds and edge the runner-up finisher by 0.47 of a second, and Beauchemin tacked on another four points to his team’s scoring by placing fourth in the javelin with a throw of 160-10.
MSC boys’ hockey team are co-state champs again
Here’s something very unusual: The Mount Saint Charles Academy boys’ hockey team is the first one in RIIL history to receive a share of a state title in consecutive seasons. And the Mounties did this despite never stepping foot onto the ice for a best-of-three championship game.
For the second straight winter, the Mounties earned a spot in the state finals, only to have COVID issues wreck their bid for a title. MSC experienced a few COVID issues as the finals were set to begin against Bishop Hendricken, but instead of taking sole possession of the title, the Hawks decided to share the title with their rivals.
Nevertheless, the Mounties enjoyed a superb season that saw them capture the regular-season title with an 8-0-1 record, skate past Cumberland in the state quarterfinals, and top La Salle in three games in the best-of-three semis.
N.S. girls’ hoop team holds off rivals to capture III-North crown
The Northmen captured their first Division III-North regular-season title in seven years with an 8-1 record, but the climb back to the top wasn’t an easy one. Woonsocket only finished a half-game behind N.S. in the standings with a 7-1 record, and a game behind the Novans was Mount at 6-2.
Unfortunately, none of those teams were able to reach the D-III championship game. Mount Pleasant, which ended up claiming the title, beat the Mounties in the quarterfinals and the Northmen in the semis, and the Novans fell to then-unbeaten Mount Hope in the semis.
Comeback in D-IV finals propels WHS girls’ volleyball team to title
A marquee matchup for the Division IV title between Woonsocket and Providence Country Day nearly turned into a nightmare for the Novans, who played poorly in losing their first two sets. But they bravely came back to win the next three by scores of 25-22, 25-10, and 15-10 and leave Rhode Island College with their program’s first title since 1989.
The victory capped an 11-1 season for the Novans, who were also making their first appearance in a title match since 2004. Woonsocket dropped just eight sets all season, but five of those losses came to PCD, who entered the match with an 11-0 record that included a 3-2 regular-season victory over Woonsocket.
After topping Mount Pleasant in the quarterfinals and Tiverton in the semis, Woonsocket went the distance with PCD in arguably the program’s most exciting match in recent memory. The Novans pulled away from the Knights in the dramatic fifth game on sophomore outside hitter Aje’ana Coleman’s 10th kill of the day and sophomore setter Bella Mencarini’s two aces, including the title clincher.
MSC boys’ lacrosse team defeats N.S. for D-IV crown
The Mounties won their first championship since 2008 by rolling past neighboring rival North Smithfield, 16-4, in the Division IV title game at Tucker Field.
The victory capped a marvelous 8-0 season for the Mounties, who were coming off a 17-7 win over Tiverton in the semifinals. Mount scored the final five goals of the opening half to take an 11-4 lead and eventually break away from the Northmen, who fell to 6-2 and were making their first appearance in a championship game in their six-year existence.
Freshman Pat Murphy scored four goals to lead the Mounties, who outscored their opponents during the season by a 124-43 margin.
Three-year-old Woonsocket boys’ volleyball team seizes D-III title
The Novans accomplished something that almost every third-year high school program dreams of doing – win a championship – and they did so by defeating defending Division III champion St. Raphael Academy in their title match at RIC by scores of 25-20, 25-23, 23-25, and 25-21.
Led by veteran head coach Ruth Plante, who had directed the school’s girls’ volleyball team to multiple state championships in the 1980s, the Novans concluded their season with an 8-2 record that included a 3-0 victory over Exeter/West Greenwich in the quarterfinals and a 3-1 win over Mount Hope in the semis.
The Saints, who were 2-5 and the fifth seed in the playoffs, had upset two higher seeds by 3-2 scores to return to the finals. Every set in the finals was a challenging one, but in the fourth, the Novans rolled out to a 10-2 lead and never looked back.
MSC boys fall short in D-II tennis finals, Lawrence’s last match
Facing Cumberland High in the D-II finals at Slater Park, and looking to produce the program’s first unbeaten season and title since 2014, the Mounties saw their season come down to a third-set tiebreaker in the deciding first doubles match.
The Mounties’ tandem of sophomore Nicholas Cave and freshman Peter Burke did everything it could to win a match that took two hours and 33 minutes, but they came out on the losing end of a 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (5) decision that gave the Clippers a thrilling 4-3 win and their first title since 2010.
The Mounties, who were trying to claim their program’s seventh championship, and do so without a senior in their lineup, ended their season with a 10-1 record.
The match also marked the final one in the magnificent career of head coach Richard Lawrence, who retired from his post a month later after starting the program 50 seasons earlier and serving in various roles on the coaching staff.
N.S.L.L. Junior/Senior baseball team claim District IV crown
It had been more than a decade since the North Smithfield Little League fielded a Junior/Senior Division baseball team, but last summer, the organization was able to put together its own ballclub and capture the District IV championship by topping Burrillville Blue in the finals, 8-7.
Playing in a 14-team league, North Smithfield received the second seed in the playoffs (and an opening-round bye) by posting a 10-2 record.
In the playoffs, the team picked up its 11th and 12th victories of the season by defeating Scituate in the quarterfinals and Woonsocket in the semifinals.
N.S. boys’ soccer team falls again in double overtime in D-II finals
For the third time in the last four years, North Smithfield reached the Division II finals, but like the 2018 and ‘19 championship games, the 3rd-seeded Northmen lost in double overtime, this time to 5th-seeded Chariho, 2-1.
The cruel loss ended a marvelous season for the Northmen, who despite having to play their home games on the North Smithfield Elementary School’s grass field, produced a 12-1-4 record. In the quarterfinals, the Northmen netted a 1-0 overtime victory over 6th-seeded Pilgrim in Smithfield, and in the semifinals, the Northmen, thanks to a pair of second-half goals, were able to topple 2nd-seeded Mount Hope in Bristol.