This was one of those gut-check races. It was an opportunity to see how he could handle the pressure of running against some top elite competition.
It’s would be safe to say that Cole Francis passed the test.
In the featured Championship race of Saturday’s Ocean State Invitational, the Narragansett High junior placed ninth overall against the region’s best. Francis blazed the 5K course at Goddard Memorial State Park with a time of 15 minutes, 43.8 seconds
“I’m very proud with the effort,” he said. “The goal is always to compete. The competition was amazing, like it always is at Ocean State. The goal was just to go out reasonably fast and just try and maintain and leave it all out there like I always do. I am really proud of my effort.”
Francis didn’t hold back in a the race where 22 runners dipped under 16 minutes, including Smithfield’s Jason Padula (tied for 16th, 15:59.4). The Mariners’ standout passed through his opening mile at 4:44.
“I felt pretty good at the first mile,” Francis said. “Obviously, it got harder as the race went on. I was expecting that. I knew it was going to be a grind going into today. You got to expect that. You got to hurt to come out with a result that you’re proud of. I’m proud of my effort.”
In the girls’ Championship race, Saint Raphael Academy’s Rory Sullivan was the top RI finisher. The SRA senior was 15th overall in 18:37. Narragansett’s Maddie O’Neil was 18th in 19:10.
“I’m really happy with how my season is progressing,” said Sullivan, who two weeks ago captured the varsity race at the Vineyard XC Invitational. “I’m getting faster every race so it’s really reassuring.”
Pre-race favorite Emily Bush of Saratoga Springs (NY) won the race. The Blue Streaks’ standout clocked a winning time of 17:32.7. Paige Sheppard, a freshman from Union Catholic (NJ), took the silver in 17:35.3. Sheppard led the top-ranked New Jersey squad to a 32-45 decision over Saratoga Springs, the defending national champions. Cumberland was sixth among the 17 schools with 233 points. Junior Kiley DeFusco led the way by finishing 28th with a time of 19:28.1. Teammate Rose Tuomisto was 55th in 19:54.9.
Toll Gate’s Alison Pankowicz, a winner at last week’s Highland Park Invitational, was seventh in the Varsity 1 race with a time of 19:37.
The future certainly looks brought for North Kingstown. The Skippers captured the Freshmen 1 Girls’ race with Abbie Tighe (15:12), Lucy Stowe (15:35.9) and Maura Whitney (15:45.6) finishing 1-2-4.
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