Erika Pena and Danika Wayss knew it would be a fight between the two of them for the Warwick City Championship on Monday at Goddard Park.
Sure enough, down the final straightaway, Toll Gate’s Pena and Pilgrim’s Wayss were separated by only a matter of inches. But Pena – a sprinter in track – managed to find another gear over the last few hundred yards, separating herself from Wayss to earn a nine-second victory in 20 minutes and 10 seconds and the title of Warwick City Champion.
A junior, Pena had come in second place in the race each of the last two years. Wayss is a sophomore.
“The last two City Championships I’ve gotten second, my freshman and sophomore years,” Pena said. “This year I was like, ‘This is my year, I’m going to go get it.’ I couldn’t let her pull away from me in the last 400 meters if I was with her the entire time.”
Pena’s victory spearheaded a strong showing by the lady Titans, who defeated both Vets and Pilgrim for the team city title. Jess Cawley took third place, Katie Lavallee took fourth, Morgan Duggan took fifth and Abby Tillotson finished in sixth. Pilgrim’s Bryanna Mullin, Megan Wilks and Nicole Morales took seventh, eighth and ninth respectively, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Toll Gate.
Kaitlyn Johnson was the ’Canes’ top finisher with a 17th-place showing. Toll Gate defeated Vets 15-50 and Pilgrim 19-37. Pilgrim beat Vets 15-48.
“Pilgrim has good runners,” Toll Gate head coach Jon Deming said. “We knew going in this was going to be tough. If Danika had won and then they went three-four, it could have gone either way.”
But the story of the day was the match-up between Pena and Wayss. Two days prior, at the Ocean State Invitational, Wayss had beaten Pena by close to a minute.
This time, it was a different story. Pena stayed close the entire race and then relied on her kick to make the difference.
“My goal was just to stick on the No. 1 runner for Pilgrim and then take off at her in the end,” Pena said. “I know I have a really good sprint because I’m a sprinter in indoor and outdoor track.”
For Wayss, it was disappointing initially, but she took solace in the fact that she ran one of her best times.
“I’m happy with my time,” Wayss said. “It’s my best time here. Erika Pena is an amazing runner. I’m lucky to get to race against girls like her.”
Rounding out Pilgrim’s top five was Maranda Duffie in 11th. The next four Vets’ girls across the line after Johnson were Ashley Cliff in 25th, Sarah Grace Plante in 26th, Vikki Soares in 32nd and Tess Bussick in 33rd.
Toll Gate’s pair of wins kept it in the mix for an automatic bid to the state championship via division finish. The Titans are 6-2, and currently in fourth place in the Suburban Division. The top three teams qualify.
Cranston West is in third place at 7-2, and Toll Gate will have a chance to leapfrog the Falcons on Monday when it goes against them in the final dual meet of the season.
Vets and Pilgrim – which are 5-3 and 2-6 respectively – also finish the regular season on Monday.
The class championships will be held on Oct. 26, with the state meet on Nov. 3.
Hawks, Potter take boys’ meet
Michael Potter wasn’t thrilled with the way he ran at the Manchester Invitational on Saturday. While the Hawks came in second at the prestigious race, and teammate Colin Tierney finished in first, Potter hadn’t felt great on the course.
“I was kind of disappointed with how I did in Manchester because I thought I could just hang with Colin and finish right next to him,” Potter said. “I just wasn’t feeling it, my legs were pretty heavy.”
He felt pretty good on Monday.
Potter came flying off the starting line at the Warwick City Championships at Goddard Park and never looked back, cruising to a dominant first-place finish. He covered the course in 15:58, a full 41 seconds ahead of Tierney, who was taking it a little easier than normal after his big showing in Manchester.
Potter and Tierney were the first two of six consecutive Hawks to cross the finish line, leading Hendricken to 15-50 wins over Toll Gate and Warwick Vets and a 15-49 win over Pilgrim.
“I figured today I would try to come in and run a fast time to make up for Saturday,” Potter said.
Hendricken held its No. 3-7 runners out of the race because of the quick turnaround from Saturday but didn’t miss a beat. Jared Boulanger took third, Chris Ferreira took fourth, Tom McMahon came in fifth and Michael Kiernan came in sixth.
The Hawks are now 9-0, with a showdown against undefeated East Greenwich coming up on Monday to decide the division crown. After that, the team will go to North Carolina for a meet the following Saturday. Hendricken has already clinched a spot in the state meet.
“East Greenwich has got a great program,” Hendricken head coach Jim Doyle said. “We meet them here next week and it’s going to be a tough meet with them. It should be interesting.”
Toll Gate also had a strong showing at Monday’s City Championship.
The Titans were the top public school of the three, edging Vets 26-31 and beating Pilgrim 22-39. It was an important victory, because Toll Gate and Vets were fighting for the final automatic state meet berth given from the Suburban Division. The Titans, now alone in third place at 7-2, can clinch a spot at states with a win on Monday. Vets fell to 6-3, while Pilgrim is 4-4-1.
“Warwick was looking really good on paper, based on last week,” Toll Gate head coach Norm Bouthillier said. “I go, ‘Oh, wow, they got really good.’ We had to run hard.”
The Titans’ top finisher was Alex Pires – the team’s No. 1 all year – in ninth place overall. Next up was Brock Massa in 12th, Pat Rocchio in 16th, Evan Cummiskey in 23rd and Nick Mattioli in 28th.
Vets was right behind, with Ian Anderson setting its pace with a 10th-place finish. Jon Nordin finished 14th, Chris Smith was 21st, Nick Thompson was 22nd and Evan Anderson was 31st.
The top public school finisher, however, came out of Pilgrim, as Brandon Lawton finished just behind a pack of Hendricken runners to take seventh place.
It was a nice feather in Lawton’s cap, who was hoping to be in the top three Warwick public school finishers.
“I would have liked to run faster and beat a couple more Hendricken kids,” Lawton said. “But I beat all the Toll Gate and Vets kids. To beat those two teams, that’s what I had to do.”
After Lawton, Pilgrim’s next four across the line were Sam Eleuterio in 20th, Ed Cascella in 39th, Joe Tocco in 42nd and Andrew Bacard in 51st.
Assuming Toll Gate clinches the final state meet berth, Pilgrim and Vets will still have a chance to qualify with a strong showing at the Class Championships on Oct. 26. The state meet is the following week, on Nov. 3.