SPORTS

RI a cross country hotbed

By ALEX SPONSELLER
Posted 11/19/20

The high school cross country state championships were held last week at Ponaganset, and sure enough, it came down to Bishop Hendricken and La Salle with the Rams claiming their second consecutive state championship. It was pretty much a given that it

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SPORTS

RI a cross country hotbed

Posted

The high school cross country state championships were held last week at Ponaganset, and sure enough, it came down to Bishop Hendricken and La Salle with the Rams claiming their second consecutive state championship.

It was pretty much a given that it would come down to these two squads when the season began last month. The Rams were the favorite and were ranked in the top five nationally. Jack McLoughlin was considered the top runner in the state and proved it by winning as Hendricken’s Evan Reynolds took second.

When watching the race and considering how things have gone over the past few years, I have mixed feelings with this sport and how it is at the high school level in the state. 

First off, I love the Hawks-Rams rivalry. Some people feel that it has gotten old and predictable. I agree with the later part of that statement but not the former.

Sure, we know that these are the top programs in the state and for the foreseeable future, will continue to dominate the sport and likely take the top two spots. Is variety nice? Of course, but I also love me a good old rivalry. These two schools have gone back and forth in the last decade, and now with back-to-back wins, the Rams have now regained control. Time for the Hawks to respond.

On the other hand, I do wonder if it is time to make the Class Championships the real team championships … if that makes sense. Of course, there needs to be a state championship for individual runners, that is one of the most exciting parts of the sport. But I do wonder if we should start pushing to promote the Class Championships as the state championships with an individual state championship the following week.

North Kingstown came in third and a few other schools had nice showings, it was not like the other teams were worlds apart from the top. 

I have said it plenty in the past, but I love covering cross country especially toward the end of the season. I love the Hendricken-La Salle rivalry and am excited to see how the teams continue to develop. Me suggesting a greater emphasis on the Class Championships is not because I am sick of seeing the same teams win … it is more of just a way to give other teams the opportunity at least, because outside of the top four or five, there really is not much of a competition at all. 

Last point I will make regarding cross country is a similar one to what I said about baseball in Rhode Island last summer … and it is that the Ocean state has some phenomenal talent.

La Salle and Hendricken have been regulars at the Nike Cross Country Nationals and have boasted some of the best in the country, literally. Then teams like North Kingstown, East Greenwich, and so on, there are some of the best runners nationally right in our backyard.

Cross country obviously is not a sport that grabs many headlines, it never has which is unfortunate. I think it is time for Rhode Islanders outside of the running community to take notice of how much of a hotbed the state has become and embrace it. Rhode Island is always looking to separate itself from the pack, and this is a great opportunity to do just that. I do not think it is a stretch to say it is in the top handful of states with cross country. 

I lied, I have half a point left to make regarding cross country.

Coming in fourth place overall was Warwick resident and St. Ray’s standout Darius Kipyego, who happened to sign his National Letter of Intent recently to run track for Division I Iowa State.

For those of you who do not know Kipyego, I’ll put it simple: He’s an absolute phenom.

He has competed in numerous national and international track events and is considered one of the best junior athletes in the country. He’s a state champion, a New England champion, and was ranked as the No. 1 sprinter in the 800 meter dash in the country during the summer. 

What amazes me about Darius is how he has flown under the radar here. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a name that is recognized and admired, it’s not like he’s been ignored, but when it is all said and done we could realistically be looking at one of the all-time great athletes to ever come out of Rhode Island.

Is it because it is track? Is it because he didn’t start becoming a thing until the last two years or so? I’m not sure, and I am not sure of what his long term aspirations are in the sport, but it seems that he has a legitimate chance to accomplish anything he wants and has the potential to be one of the greatest sprinters in the world.

Now, of course this is just a projection and he is still in high school. I am not crowning him the next Usain Bolt just yet. But what we have on our hands is one of the best junior runners in the nation and someone that could end up being a big deal down the road. Keep your eyes peeled. 

Lastly, what a win for the Patriots, huh? 

You probably won’t believe me when I say this, but I actually had a good feeling about this game. Baltimore gets inclement weather, but no tram handles poor conditions like the Pats do. Also, the Ravens, in my opinion, have been figured out a little bit on offense. Lamar Jackson is a terrific athlete and a headache to stop, but if you take away their run game and play tight coverage, he tends to display some of his inexperience.

Also, the Pats’ margin for error is razor thin after the 2-5 start. They still have a shot at the playoffs, but will likely have to win out to secure a spot. The most they can afford is one more loss, and even that may be enough to do them in.

I don’t think the Patriots are contending for a Super Bowl any time soon, but I do believe in this team enough to say that I could see it playing itself back into playoff position. Winning 12, 13 games a year was great for the past 20 seasons, but it is a bit refreshing to have some uncertainty. It will be an exciting second half of football. 

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