It’s the midway portion of the fall campaign, just a few weeks away from the championship season with the class meet kicking things off on Oct. 28.
Bishop Hendricken coach Jim Doyle knows where his team will be each and every year at this time. The first Saturday of the month, it’s down in North Carolina for the Great American X-C Festival. The next weekend, it’s off to New York City for the prestigious Manhattan College X-C Invitational.
For nearly 20 years, Great American has been a standard for the Hawks. Doyle has made the trek to historic Van Cortlandt Park, site of the Manhattan Invite, since 1984 when he coached at Saint Raphael Academy.
As always, top-notch competition is expected this weekend at the Great American, which attracts a plethora of talented runners from the east coast, and beyond. Hendricken will once again have their varsity unite in the featured event, the Garmin Race of Champions (ROC). Along with the Hawks, Narragansett’s Cole Francis is expected to toe the line in the ROC, while Pilgrim’s Keaney Bayha is entered in the girls’ ROC.
Doyle likes to make the trips to Great American and Manhattan, and others like last week’s Manchester (NH) Invitational and the Nike Northeast Regionals in late November for a few reasons. There’s the team-bonding aspect that he believes is of the utmost of importance. There’s also, of course, the competition.
For Great American, which was cancelled last year due to Hurricane Ian, it collectively produces some of the best times in the nation year after year.
And it’s not because the course is flat or a little short either.
“It always has great competition,” Doyle said. “The course is a great course, probably the best we see throughout the season. The trails are super-wide and straight. It’s challenging, but you can run fast times because the trails are wide and straight. There’s so many straightaways.”
The start of the Great American is on a wide open field where participants run at least 600 meters on a gradual downhill slope before hitting the trails. A long, moderately-challenging 500m incline greets runners at around 1.25 mile and they attack that same hill again around 2.7 miles on the loop course.
Doyle particularly has a penchant for the start of Great American as it prepares his squad for the more important meets like the class, state and New England championships and the Nike where a quick start can often make or break a team.
“Typically, the first mile my guys have to run 4:40 to 4:50 for that first mile to be in the race,” he said. “The leaders are in the 4:30s.”
So far, Doyle is content about what he’s seeing from this year’s team. He lost four to graduation from the 2022 squad that captured the school’s 26th state crown.
Per usual, Hendricken recently finished off another unbeaten league season in the Suburban Division with an 11-0 mark.
“I think we are doing well. We’re relatively inexperienced. Most of the guys on this team were on JV or they didn’t run,” he said. “I just added BJ Kerachsky to the bus (for Great American). I just added Jacob Silva to the bus. That’s the six and seven guys on the team. BJ Kerachsky is coming on. He never ran cross country in his life. He was a track runner and ran the 600m. It’s his first time running cross country and he threw in a low 17 (minutes) a few weeks ago and looks good in the dual meets. He’s been coming on. We’ve had a little bit of a switch off with the guys. They understand. I think we’re stronger for it, for where we are. I think the top five are pretty solid.”
That top five includes senior Jack Moretta, junior Ollie Ide, senior Will Olson, senior Sam Zabbo, and freshman Colby Flynn.
“We have a relatively inexperienced team,” Doyle said. “Most have seen no action at all.”
As with most years, the Hawk coach is expecting a battle at the State Meet.
“Cumberland is very strong. They’re a great team. They’re well-coached,” he said. “La Salle, you never know what’s going to happen with them. They’re in it almost all the time and are well-coached. North Kingstown is a good team. Barrington is a good team. They’re all good teams. We just have to go out and do our job, and run what we’re capable of doing. Hopefully, our depth is better than everyone else’s.”
Speaking of Cumberland, the Clippers were among several RI schools that were scheduled to compete at the Wickham Park Invitational in Manchester, CT, this weekend. Meet official cancelled the meet on Wednesday morning due to a water issue around the starting line.
Head coach Kerri Carpenter indicated to us that she’s presently looking for a potential option to the cancelled meet. The Clippers, who were a perfect 12-0 in the Northern Division, were in New Hampshire last weekend for the Manchester Invitational. The Clippers were sixth among the 30-plus schools with junior Sam Henderson the top Ri finisher, placing sixth overall in a PR of 15:41.6. Hendricken was third as a team in the meet.
It will be interesting to see how Francis and Bayha fare at Great American. Both harriers are having strong years on the up-and-down terrain. Bayha won her race at the season-opening Injury Fund Carnival. This past weekend, she clocked a state best of 18:35.0 at the Paul Short Run at Lehigh University in PA. Francis, also a victor at Injury Fund, was ninth in the Championship Race of the Ocean State Invitational two weeks ago where he clocked a best of 15:43.80, No. 2 statewide behind Henderson.