One Last Look At Another Memorable State Meet

It was a packed house, a full-to-capacity crowd at the PCTA field house that had the chance to witness the RIIL State Track & Field Championships this past weekend. The parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends and even the athletes and coaches down below at trackside, were treated to yet another exciting competition that was orchestrated by our talented and gifted track & field athletes. It’s always our favorite time of the season at Ocean State Running, and like the rest of the meets that we’ve covered, an event we take great pride in covering each and every season, each and every year.

The 2023 version featured several highlights. With Barrington and West Warwick winning the respective boys’ and girls’ team crowns, it was the first time that public schools swept the titles in more than 30 years. The Wizards’ Lisa Raye won three individual titles to increase her total to 10 so far in her relatively brief high school career. Sometimes I think we forget that she’s only a sophomore. Winning 20 of these things by the time she graduates in two-plus years certainly doesn’t seem too far-fetched. How about La Salle’s Marshall Vernon, another gifted tenth-grader? You can’t knock him for falling short of the three titles, too. The Rams’ outstanding underclassman showed just what hard work and heart can produce when the gun is fired. He was our 3K and 1,500-meter winner against some pretty stiff competition. If that wasn’t enough, he still managed to pick up five more points for the eventual second-place Rams by taking fourth overall in the 1,000m.

These were just a few of the highlights that our young high-schoolers were able to produce on the biggest stage in town. It’s not easy to perform at your best when the pressure is at its peak during competitions like these. But the loads of athletes that qualified for the states this past weekend, certainly showed to us that they live for these type of meets with most shining brightly during the most important time of the season.

As we’ve often do once the meet has finished and our top athletes start prepping for the New England Championships and the Nationals, what are some of the other things that we noticed during eight-plus hours of competition at the PCTA?


With a combined 22 individual events for the boys and girls at the state meet, it can be difficult at times to truly recognize some of those athletes that didn’t quite get to make it to the victory stand despite their immense talent and their drive to succeed. While we do know there are others, we’d like to recognize two of those unsung heroes – Narragansett’s Cole Francis and Cranston West’s Ailani Sutherland.

Francis earned two silver medals at the State Meet, placing second in both the 1,500m and the 1,000m. In both races, you couldn’t ask for more from the Mariner junior. Last year as a tenth-grader, Francis was a runner-up in the 3K, giving it everything he had to make the race honest for eventual champion, Devan Kipyego of St. Raphael Academy. You couldn’t ask for more from Francis again this past weekend. He knew what he had to do in his match-up against Vernon in the 1,500m. He knew that despite the La Salle runner competing in the 3K earlier, he couldn’t hold back. Francis took the pace out hard and never let up before the LSA standout was able to squeeze by him at the very end to win with a time of 4:01.73 to Francis’s 4:02.15 effort. Not too long after, Francis was back on the track for the 1K and had to contend with the fresh legs of Ponaganset’s Jeremy Roe, who won his first individual crown in 2:33.52, a mere second ahead of the hard-charging junior (2:34.50). Francis is an all-stater with three runner-up finisher at the indoor state meet. He’s also a two-time, first-team all-stater in cross country. We can almost guarantee that the time will come when Francis will win that coveted title, be it on the track, the trails or both. If it doesn’t happen, we can 100-percent guarantee that the Mariner runner will give it everything he can in his effort to win it.

As for Sutherland, the Cranston West sprinter has been one of our state’s best ever since bursting onto the scene as a ninth-grader during the 2020-21 season. In her sophomore year, she was our indoor 55m champion and captured the 100m and 200m at the outdoor meet. Sutherland has also been part of several state champion and record-setting relay squads. She still continues to excel for the Falcons in the shortest races on the track and is part of the terrific trio of speedsters in RI that includes good friends and fierce rivals, Lisa and Xenia Raye of West Warwick. You would be hard-pressed to find a more gifted group of sprinters not only here in our small state but mostly anywhere in the country. Besides her talent and her sometimes, bright-colored hair, the other thing that sticks out with Sutherland is her smile. It’s something that never seems to leave her face and something you can notice from what seems a mile away. Over the last year and a half, the Northeastern commit has often been the No. 3 sprinter behind the Raye sisters in most of the championship races, including this past weekend where she earned the bronze in the 55m dash. (7.24). She was also fourth in the 300m (41.78). Whether she wins or not, that smile always seems to be on her face and it’s clear she’s happy not only for what she’s done, but for her fellow competitors, who she battled hard with on the track. That, right there, is what it’s all about and makes you want to cheer for the Falcon senior even more.


Some will say we’re a little bias, but try and prove us wrong. We wholeheartedly believe our state’s has some of the best coaches out there, dedicated individuals that will put in the time and effort to make each and everyone of their athletes better with their knowledge and emotional support with relatively no concern for the paycheck they receive at the end. Barrington coach Bill Barrass is one of several coaches that falls into that category. There’s a reason his Eagles were the team hoisting that coveted hardware at the conclusion of the State Meet. Yes, they had the depth and talent to get the job done against the likes of perennial powerhouses La Salle and Bishop Hendricken, the second- and third-place finishers. But it’s often more than that that wins championships. As most of his athletes will attest, and have also told us, Barrass is a true leader of his troops, a true motivator for his athletes as they compete each and every week. The Barrington coach will be the first to admit that he’s not a fan when we start heading his way to get an interview after a team victory. Saturday was no different, although he graciously obliged to talk with us about his team. Barrass is one of those coaches whose words resonates with his runners without him even having to raise his voice. It’s not that you won’t hear him ever cheering for his athletes. He is more likely to motivate them with calm, steady and authoritative demeanor.


We’d like to give a shout out to Marty Crowley, who was the main guy behind the mic during the live stream of the State Meet. Yours truly, along with our social media guru, Nessa Molloy, occasionally joined Crowley upstairs in the far corner of the PCTA for the broadcast, which we were able to do in conjunction with the NFHS network. But it was the Cumberland Athletic Director and winning cross-country coach at the state meet this past fall that was the steady throughout a very long day of separate girls and boys’ competitions. Crowley never wavered, provide just as much energy in his delivery from start to finish. From the first hour until the very last, he made sure to provide a quality broadcast with his knowledge of the sport and his skills as an announcer.

Check out the full video below of the State Meet.


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