State’s Best Could By Vying For Top Spots At New England’s

Rhode Island has had some history at the New England Cross-Country Championships, a meet that will be celebrating its 88th year of hosting the boys’ competition and 46th with the girls on Saturday.

Tied at 12 apiece, Bishop Hendricken and La Salle Academy have won the most boys’ team titles in the event’s history and Rhode Island as a whole have come home with 31 crowns for the top spot.

On the girls’ side, Cumberland captured the inaugural girls’ title in 1977 and La Salle has earned the hardware three times, tied at No. 4 on the list with Essex Junction (VT) and Dover (NH).

Individually, Portsmouth Abbey’s John Murphy was the first to break the tape for boys, winning it all in 1975. Hendricken’s Darren Rojas captured the title three years later on R.I., soil where the Ocean State had a 1-2-4 finish at Bryant University with Cumberland’s Daryl Simoneau finishing second and La Salle’s David Grace taking third. In all, 10 harriers have been triumphant at the regional competition with La Salle’s DJ Principe doing it twice in 2015 and ’16 and Saint Raphael’s Devan Kipyego coming out on top last year at Ponaganset.

For girls, two have struck it gold at the New England’s. South Kingstown’s Karen Murphy won the second annual event in 1978. The Rebels’ Rosie Woodford was the last one to do it with her victory in 1995.

With all this being said, is there potential for some new history to be made this weekend at the Troy Howard MS Cross-Country Course in Belfast, Maine?

There is a possibility. But regardless if it happens or not, Rhode Islanders could still have a strong day in the Pine Tree State.

Based on speed ratings, individual boys’ champion, Sam Henderson of Cumberland, ranks No. 3 among the entries. Henderson had his best race of the season last weekend where a well-calculated game plan earned him the title with a PR of 15 minutes, 33.29 seconds. Ranked ahead of Henderson on Saturday is the CT duo of Steven Hergenrother of Ridgefield and Sheib Dissa of Newtown. Hergenrother, a Princeton commit, was eighth at the Great American XC Festival with a PR of 14:52.60. He was the individual winner at the CIAC Division LL Championships and the CIAC State Open. Hergenrother also clocked an impressive 12:24.50 for 2.5 miles at the Manhattan College XC Invitational, an effort that placed him third in the Eastern States Championship. Dissa, a junior, was first at the CIAC Division L Championships and second at the State Open where he had a PR of 15:37 at Wickham Park.

Barrington teammates Brandon Piedade (15:47.18) and Myles Napolitano (15:49.89) as well as Portsmouth’s Sean Gray (15:51.64) also rank among the top 20 based on their performances at the State Meet where they took the second through fourth spots.

It doesn’t look like anyone is touching two-time defending champion Ruth White of Orono (ME) for the girls’ title. She has twice broken 17 minutes this season at Troy Howard, including 16:57 at the recent state meet. Saint Raphael’s Rory Sullivan, who took individual honors at last week’s states with a best of 18:08.79, ranks fourth among the entries. Chariho’s Erin VonHousen, who was second overall in 18:18.30, is at No. 5. Pilgrim’s Keaney Bayha, a third-place finisher (18:27.11) last Saturday, is the only other R.I., runner among the top 20.

Team-wise, CT squad Ridgefield and Danbury are the top two contenders and will be tough to break up for those two spots. According the Dyestat/Runnerspace rankings, Ridgefield is No. 5 among Northeast squads and 28th nationally. They were a 24-point victor over Danbury at the State Open and posted a 59-70 decision against their rivals at the Class LL Championships. Hendricken and Cumberland, who were separated by a point with their 1-2 finish at last week’s State Meet, could make the podium, too, with a similar effort this weekend.

The Cumberland girls were impressive this past weekend in winning the school’s first team title in 42 years. If the Clippers can continue the momentum this weekend, a podium placement could await them.

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