State Meet Preview: Boys’ Middle & Long Distance Events

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes did his thing on Sunday night by lifting the Kansas City Chiefs to their second straight Super Bowl title. Now it’s time for track & field’s version of the Super Bowl with this weekend’s RIIL State Indoor Championships. Like Mahomes did with his game-winning drive in overtime to secure of 25-22 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, we’re predicting many stars to shine inside the PCTA field house on Saturday when our top boys and girls compete for individual and team glory.

Over the week, we’re going do our best to let you know just who those possible stars may be when the stakes are at their highest. As always, you’re welcome in advance if we happened to provide some billboard material for your athletes and teams. It certainly wasn’t our intention. But it is fun to stir things up a bit, isn’t it?

Without further adieu, here we go. Below we feature the boys’ 600-meter run, 1,000m, 1,500 & 3,000m. Yes, we understand, a 600m is not a middle distance event. But it’s closer to a middle distance event than a sprint event. If you disagree, try sprinting for a full 600m next time you’re at the local track. Afterwards, let us know how it felt with that bear on your back the last 200 or so meters.



The top six runners in this race are separated by less than a second. Only one, maybe two, we expect will have run an individual event prior to the gun being shot. This one could get nasty, real nasty. In a good way, of course. Hendricken’s Jacob Coates is the No. 1 seed with a best of 1 minute, 24.56 seconds. In the Hawks’ quest for the title, Coates will be trying to give his team 10 big points around the midway point of the meet. While he has a legit chance to do that, it won’t be easy. Not at all. Westerly’s talented tandem of Robbie Wade (1:24.67) and Noah Roberts (1:24.80), Ponaganset’s Jeremy Roe (1:24.70) and Classical’s Tommy Breen (1:24.92) all broke 1:25 this season. Right on the cusp is Hendricken’s Tommy Flanders at 1:25.16 for the No. 6 seed. They’re all within striking distance. Both Roe and Flanders are also scheduled to compete in the 1,500m. As a No. 5 seed with a best of 4:07, we believe Roe will be on the line in the 7.5 lapper. We’re 50-50 on Flanders, who’s a No. 13 seed with a 4:10 best. Either way, this race will no doubt come down to the last stretch, the last few meters of the race. Back in 2016, then Hendricken sophomore Harry Antone pulled off one of the bigger upsets of the day by beating defending champion Mars Bishop of Barrington in the 600m with a gutsy push to the finish the last 20 meters en route to a winning time of 1:23.43. Just nine hundredths of a second separated the top three with Bishop (1:23.52) able to hold off the Hawks’ NIcholas Williams (1:23.53) for the runner-up spot. We could have a similar race on Saturday. It’s that close.


This race could get interesting. The top two runners in this race are La Salle’s Marshall Vernon and Narragansett’s Cole Francis. Vernon clocked a best of 8:38.0 to finish second at last month’s Yale Track Classic. Francis, the runner-up in 2023, comes in with a top time of 8:40.93 from the Greater Boston Track Club (GBTC) Invitational at Harvard on Jan. 21. Both are also entered in the 1,500 and the 1,000m. Our guess is that Vernon will run them all, much like he did with great success at the Class A Championships two weeks ago when he went home with three gold medals. But here’s the thing. The Rams have an outside chance at a title, but the Mariners do not. With that being said, will Francis run the longer race or scratch and focus on the 1,500m where he’s the No. 1 seed? That’s the big question here. If they both show up at the line, we have a race folks. Both runners like to take charge and both runners will make this race honest. That’s a guarantee. With both racing at their best, look for a time in the mid 8:30s. And you can’t ignore the others, too. The field includes three others in the mid 8:50 range this season with Hendricken’s Will Olson (8:53.44), Smithfield’s Jason Padula (8:53.81) and Hendricken’s Jack Moretta (8:56.14) among the top seeds. Padula looked very strong in winning the Class B Championships with his current best, a race he won by nearly 50 seconds! He’s capable of faster. He’s capable of challenging the leaders. Olson was second to Vernon in a somewhat tactical race at the Class A meet. We know he’s capable of getting into the 8:40 zone. Don’t count out Moretta, too. He ran his best at the RITCA Invitational in early December. Since then, he’s generally been in the low nine-minute range. With a best of 8:56 going into the outdoor states last spring, Moretta had the best race of his career at the championship meet where he clocked an all-time best of 8:43.73 to finish second to St. Ray’s Devan Kipyego. He can’t be ignored during championship time. Other top runners in this field are Portsmouth’s Sean Gray (9:01.70), St. Ray’s JJ Rocha (9:07.62) and Hendricken’s Sam Zabbo (9:08.47), to name a few.


Be prepared for yet another race that will be tight to the very end. Francis and Vernon are entered along with the fresh legs of Moses Brown’s Eli Zeigler, Mount St. Charles’ Ethan Fadden, the Chieftains’ Roe, Barrington’s Jason Piedade and Cumberland’s William O’Shea. All seven have clocked times between 4:03.85 and 4:07.54 this season. We expect those times to be dropped significantly on Saturday. Who will win? Take your pick. If Vernon and Francis run the 3K, we don’t expect them to lead this race. We’re looking at runners like Zeigler or Piedade to do the work. But really it could be anybody. We’re predicting a low four-minute time will win this race, perhaps faster. If Francis scratches from the 3K, he’s our pick. Zeigler has the strength to do it, too. While he’ll have a tall task to fulfill with his three events, the Rams’ Vernon is someone you can’t ignore in the closing stages of this race. If the race turns into a somewhat tactical one, which has a slight chance of happening, add a few more that could pull out the win.


There’s a reason we put these events in the order that we did for this preview. We knew the possible happenings in the races before the final individual event of the meet. Francis owns the fastest time in the state this year in the 1K with a time of 2:33.95 from his dominating win at the URI Track Classic, which he won by more than five seconds. Vernon’s at No. 2 with a best of 2:35.15. A time in that range, maybe even slower, could possibly win this race when you take into consideration all the races that our elite runners in this field have run prior to this one. That could leave the door wide open for a few surprises at the end, runners that we didn’t figure as a contenders, pulling out the ‘W’. Besides Vernon and Francis, other top runners expected to toe the line in this race are Zeigler (2:35.28), Roe (2:36.80), Piedade (2:37.92), Fadden (2:38.49) and Cumberland’s Connor Magill (2:38.88), who will be fresh-legged coming into this race. Want to talk about surprises at the end?

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