When it Championship Time, it’s common ground for some of the elite athletes to compete in multiple events with hopes of either guiding their teams to victory or testing their own fitness for bigger and better things in the coming weeks (e.g. State Meet).
Marshall Vernon was one of several athletes that were put to the test at Saturday’s class championships. For La Salle Academy’s gifted sophomore, it turned out be one that he passed with flying colors.
Entered in the three longest events on the track in the Class A meet, Vernon went home with three gold medals wrapped around his neck by capturing the 3,000-meter run, 1,500m and 1K. While his efforts weren’t enough for the Rams to pull off an upset over heavily-favored Bishop Hendricken, it proved to Vernon, and perhaps the rest of the state, that he has an outside shot at pulling off the triple at the State Meet in less than two weeks.
“It’s really hard to go out here and do all three events. But it was really fun to challenge myself, see what I am capable of doing at the state level,” he said. “It was a complete confidence-booster being able to do all this, running against all these guys.”
In the team battle, the Hawks rolled to the school’s 41st title by scoring 183 points, 50 more than second-place La Salle. Cumberland was third with 39.5. No surprise, depth played a key role for Hendricken in its latest triumph. The Hawks had multiple scorers in nine of the 11 individual events and had wins from Jakob Reyes in the high jump (6 feet), Tristan Jordan in the 55m hurdles (8.33), Jeremy Seidi in the 55m dash (6.64) and its 4x800m squad (8:42.41).
In the 3K, the Hawks compiled 24 points by finishing 2-3-5-6-7-8. Vernon did the pace-setting from the start and was able to break away from eventual second-place finisher Will Olson with a few laps remaining en route to a solid 8:58.08. Olson crossed the line at 9:01.39.
Vernon admits he likes being the guy up front pushing the pace.
“It’s a little Steve Prefontaine of me to go out there and lead the race,” said Vernon, making reference to the late great Oregon runner, who won numerous NCAA titles with his gritty, front-running style. “I like leading. It gives me a sense of control in the race and allows me to do my own thing. I knew those Hendricken guys were right on me. I was constantly looking back trying to see how close they were to me. Their coach was telling them to go faster. I kind of wanted to set the pace how I wanted to. Everyone kind of knew I was tripling from the heat sheets. I thought they’d push me a little more. I was ready for it.”
Vernon had to hold off a gusty performance by Cumberland’s Will O’Shea in the 1,500m. The La Salle standout once again forged his way to the front of the pack and went through an 800m split around 2:10. O’Shea was able to overtake Vernon with a few laps remaining, only to have his rival regain it back in the closing stages of the race. Vernon finished just a few strides ahead of the Clipper senior with a PR of 4:06.84. O’Shea was timed in a best of 4:07.54.
For his final event, Vernon had to contend with another Cumberland runner in the 1,000m, which he won in 2:37.71. Pushing him throughout the six-lapper was the Blue & White’s Connor Magill, who secured the runner-up spot with a best of 2:38.88.
La Salle also took the 4x200m (1:32.30) and 4x800m (3:37.18) relays. The Rams’ Garrett Giroux-Pezzullo won a close race in the 300m where the speedy tenth-grader posted a mild upset of Cranston West’s Alonzo Parker-Sharpe. Giroux-Pezzullo edged the Falcon senior at the line with a time of 36.01 to his rival’s 36.08 effort. Hendricken’s Jacob Coates was third in 36.30.
Pilgrim, a fifth-place finisher in the meet with 35 points, captured two events. Junior Hunter Schobel took the long jump with a leap of 20-11.25 and fellow classmate Brandon Wolfenden was a winner in the shot with a distance of 52-5.25.
In an event that’s certainly turning into one of the must-see events at State Meet, Woonsocket sophomore Shamrock Thoun overtook the No. 1 position in the state rankings for the weight throw with a huge PR of 67-10.5. Hendricken took the next two spots with Matt Giuliano (second, 66-10.25) and Derek Goll (third, 65-8.25). Previous state-leader, Adam Beaudry of Woonsocket, was fourth at 65-5.5.
Tuon has improve dramatically from last year where he had a best of 39-6 from the JV State Meet. A year more of experience and an extra spin in the circle appears to be the difference.
His winning throw on Saturday bested his previous best this season of 63-5.25. He’s currently ranked No. 10 in the country where he’s also the top-ranked sophomore from coast-t0-coast.
Just a year after winning the school’s first girls’ team title, Classical won it again on Saturday. The Purple defeated second-place La Salle, 116.5-76.5. Barrington was third with 72 points.
Classical scored 20 of its total with victories and meet records in the 4x200m and 4x400m relays. The top-seeded 4×2 quartet of Jasmin Berganza, Zaida Depina, Morrica Bryant and Shakeyri Arroyo won a close race with Cranston West, improving on their state-leader with a time of 1:46.60. The Falcons, ranked No. 2 in RI, finished with a best of 1:46.76. La Salle was third with a time of 1:48.22. In the 4×4, Depina, Bryant, Berganza and Orla Howlett won convincingly with a 4:08.17 clocking. La Salle was a distant second at 4:16.91.`
The Purple’s Gifty Bediako contributed 18 points in the throwing events, both with all-time bests. She moved to No. 3 in the 20-pound weight with a winning distance of 49-6 and was second in the shot at 36-6.75. Cumberland’s Lacie Grenier came through with a huge PR in the shot to claim the crown, unleashing the metal ball a distance of 37-10.75, a best by more than three feet!
After a 45-footer on her initial throw, Bediako got her top throw on the next attempt.
“I really stepped up on my release and got my spins down.” said Bedieko, about her winning effort.
Cranston West’s Ailani Sutherland swept the sprinting events, blazing to a time of 7.31 in the 55m and 41.48 in the 300m. In both events. La Salle’s Alexis Caggiano nabbed the silver, posting times of 7.44 and 41.53, respectively.
In that state, Sutherland is currently ranked fourth in the dash (7.28) and third in the 300m (41.48). She feels
“For the 55, I just pushed out really hard. I just have to work more on my frequency and I think I can bring my time down,” she said. “That’s what I pretty much did. I just did the same thing that I always do.”
For the 300m, Sutherland avenged a loss to Caggiano at the division championships a week earlier. She was able to hold off her rival the last stretch, thanks to a little extra work with her endurance over the last few weeks.
“I have been having trouble with the 300m for the last couple of months,” Sutherland said. “I have been running 43s [43 seconds] at the beginning of the season so I went back to the drawing board and did more speed endurance, so that’s why I didn’t die out the last 50 meters. I kept on pushing. I knew (Caggiano) was right behind me.”
Pilgrim’s Keaney Bayha struck gold thrice with a difficult triple, winning the 1,500m (4:55.59), 600m (1:39.67) and the 1,000m (3:04.15).
In the 3,000m, Cumberland’s Kiley DeFusco led from gun-to-wire. She crossed the line in 10:19.75, the third fastest time in the state.