The Toll Gate girls’ indoor track team hasn’t lost a divisional meet in quite some time. Not since the 1997-98 season has a team been able to get the best of the Titans.
With that streak extending into its 15th season, Toll Gate is in for a challenge if it wants to get through the year with another 8-0 record. It’s far from impossible, but this season poses some new challenges that haven’t been there in the recent past. For the first time in a long time, the Titans are not only young, but they’re relatively inexperienced on the big stage.
“We can use the Red Sox thing, called the bridge year,” Toll Gate head coach Norm Bouthillier said. “It’s going to be a bridge year. For the past 10 years we’ve had great distance people coming up to fill those voids, and throwers and jumpers and sprinters. The last couple of years we’ve only had a few.”
Over the last few seasons, Toll Gate has been able to lean on veterans with state meet backgrounds. Right now, the team has only one state meet scorer returning – senior distance runner Haley Moen.
Gone to graduation are all-staters Jordan Gray, Rylee Candon and Katie St. Amand, as well as strong performers Shannon Garvey and Tess Russo.
Gray was fourth at states in the 300 last year, while Candon was sixth in the high jump and sixth in the long jump. St. Amand was fourth in the shot put.
“We’ve got a young team,” Bouthillier said. “It’s going to be a learning season because we’ve got a lot of young kids. They’re very excited about track.”
Still, the division winning streak is alive, as the Titans began the season 2-0 with victories over East Providence and Hope during Thursday’s season-opening meet.
It starts at the top with Moen. A senior and four-year contributor, Moen finished seventh at states in the 600 last year. She as also a part of the team’s 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams.
On Thursday, she came in second in the 1,000 and won the 1,500. She’s serving as a captain along with fellow senior runner Elana Chace.
“She’s been around for like 10 years it seems like,” Bouthillier said of Moen. “She’s been good since she’s been a freshman.”
The Titans’ other standout is sophomore Erika Pena, who helped lead the team to a second-place showing at the freshman states last year.
Pena ran on the varsity team’s relays last year and also competed in the high jump. Toward the end of the outdoor season, she also started focusing on hurdles and has excelled there as well. She won the 55 hurdles and the high jump on Thursday.
“She’s going to focus on the high jump, and we made her a hurdler at the end of outdoor last year,” Bouthillier said. “She’s really pretty good at that. She’s a good athlete, so we can put her anywhere.”
Bouthillier expects Moen and Pena, as well as the relay teams, to be in the mix for some points at the state meet.
After that, there’s some depth, too, especially in the sophomore class. To go with Pena, Toll Gate also has distance runner Jess Cawley – who won the 3,000 on Thursday – and middle distance runner Nora Hall, as well as Debbie Jessop and Abby Tillotson. Jordan Inkley is a solid sprinter and hurdler as well.
In the throwing events, the team is still working on development, but it has a few solid options. Freshmen Courtney Jacobsen and Nina Thibeault are doing well.
Other contributors are junior distance runners Danielle Petrangelo and Katie Lavallee. Currently, the team’s best sprinter is freshman Heather Allstrom.
“A lot of talent there,” Bouthillier said. “A couple of good throwers, developing distance people and a pretty good sprinter. Things are pretty good for the future, but it’s going to be a tough division for us this year.”
The division – Division I-Bayha – includes fall cross country state champion Barrington, a tough Coventry team, and perennial contenders South Kingstown and North Kingstown.
The Titans’ first real test will come today, when they go up against South Kingstown and Woonsocket at the Providence Career and Technical Academy.
They’re hoping it’s not the end of the program’s incredible run of winning.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Bouthillier said. “It’s going to be fun. We have a great group of kids. I couldn’t ask for a better group.”
Vets on the rise
The Warwick Vets’ girls’ team has been squarely in the middle of the pack the last three seasons, going 4-5, 3-5 and 4-4 in that time span.
Now, the ’Canes are ready to break out.
The program has roughly 40 girls on the roster, which is the most it has had in quite some time. After one meet against three teams, the ’Canes are currently 2-1, as they beat Wheeler and Providence Country Day/Juanita Sanchez and narrowly lost to Narragansett on Thursday.
There’s a lot of promise for a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005-06.
“I told the girls that we could easily have one of our best records this year,” Vets head coach Steph Shields said. “Just looking at our lineup, how deep we are and with our girls, I think we can be pretty close to that.”
The ’Canes graduated their only state meet qualifier from last year in Megan Merlino, who took 16th in the shot put. They also lost Liz Paras, who narrowly missed qualifying in the 3,000. But the competitors that are back have taken a step forward, and the new ones are already holding their own.
“Our girls came in to this season close to where they ended last season,” Shields said. “We definitely are in a great position to at least improve. That’s really what we look at all season, is for them to get better every meet.”
Vets has three senior captains, all of whom are returners. Katelyn Ravenell and Amanda Graves are back, and they’re both versatile performers. They can run relays, the 600 or the hurdles. On Thursday, Ravenell won the 55 hurdles, while Graves came in third. Graves also grabbed fourth in the 600.
Angie Marks is the third captain, and she’s a solid distance runner. She runs the 1,000 and the 3,000.
Senior Hunter Bastan came out this year after running outdoor, and she’s helped sure up the team’s sprinting and jumping events. She came in third in the long jump on Thursday.
In the sprints, junior Alyssa McCracken should be the team’s top runner, and she grabbed second in the 55 and fourth in the 300 on Thursday.
In the weights, junior Bria McAloon leads the way, and she has a shot at qualifying for states. She won Thursday’s weight throw event.
“She’s really improved form last year,” Shields said. “In the few times she’s already thrown this year, we’ve seen great improvement in the weight throw.”
The ’Canes are also getting a boost from freshman runner Carlie McPherson. She was second in the 3,000 on Thursday.
“I think she likes the 3,000, which is nice,” Shields said. “You don’t find people who like that very much.”
Other girls who should make an impact are Kaitlyn Johnson, Kelsey Gray and Amber Beech, all juniors.
It’s a significantly deeper –and larger – group than Vets has had in the past.
“We had a good amount of girls returning, but then we got a lot more girls out for the team this year,” Shields said. “Some had done outdoor track last year and they came out this year and some are just new completely, which is very exciting.”
They’re hoping the wins start to fall in line. The ’Canes’ next meet is Thursday against Mt. Pleasant and Mount St. Charles at PCTA.
“This year I’m looking to do a lot better,” Shields said. “They’re totally on board with me. They’re there. They’re pushing themselves to do well. They’re excited, which is nice.”
Pats talented, face tough slate
Pilgrim is coming off a season in which it finished tied for seventh at the state meet, and its numbers are high, especially in the freshman class.
That’s the good news. The other side of the spectrum is that the Pats graduated a few of their standout performers and may not have the depth to win a ton of meets in a highly competitive D-I-Bayha division.
Pilgrim is good, but it’s just not sure yet if it can muster quite enough points to keep up with some of its opponents.
“We’re going to be okay, but we’re in a very tough division,” Pilgrim head coach Tom Dolce said. “With the top cross country teams such as South Kingstown and Coventry and Barrington in our division, it’s going to be tough to win meets because they’re going to be really consistent.”
Toll Gate also figures to be formidable – it hasn’t lost a division meet in 15 years – and North Kingstown is traditionally a talented team, too.
So far, the Pats are 0-2, with fairly close losses to Coventry and South Kingstown in Thursday’s season opening meet.
The Pats scored 43 against Coventry and 41 against SK, which isn’t too far off from the 55 needed to win the meet.
“We were close,” Dolce said.
And there’s still quite a bit to be excited about. Though Pilgrim graduated all-state weight thrower Maggie Dufault, who came in third at states last year, as well as Emma Mascoli and Breyon Brown, both of whom qualified for states a season ago, the well is far from dry.
In the high jump, sophomore Melanie Brunelle is back after taking ninth in the high jump last season.
“Melanie is one of the better high jumpers in the state,” Dolce said.
In the long jump, junior Becca O’Donnell is strong, and she easily captured first place on Thursday with a jump of 16 feet, 3.5 inches.
O’Donnell also qualified for the states last year in the 55-meter dash.
Leading the way in the distance events is senior Natalie Tocco, who will set the pace in the 3,000. She was 13th in the 1,500 at states last year.
The Pats are also strong at the top in the throwing events. Senior Destinee Barrette returns after coming in sixth in the weight throw and fifth in the shot put at states a season ago. She won both those events on Thursday.
Just behind her is junior Maddison Caron, who finished second in the shot put and third in the weight throw on Thursday. She was 10th in the weight throw at states last year.
Senior Heather Wolfenden is coming off an injury from soccer season, but should help out in the 600. Dolce also expects some contributions from senior Courtney White and sophomore Julissa Gonzalez.
Then there is a big, talented freshman class, which Dolce thinks could make the Pats a contender over the next few years.
“It’s the best freshman class I’ve had in about 15 years,” Dolce said. “We’re in a very tough league. It’s going to be tough. But if they stay together, they’ll be successful for years to come.”
Distance runner Danika Wayss is coming off a solid cross country season, and she’ll add to the distance corps. Other freshmen who are competing already are Molly Lynch, Chantavy Crespin, Madison Stanley, Sakari Montiero, Kayda Phillip, Krystyna Croft and Nicole Morales.
All of those girls could be in the mix at freshman states.
“They’re quite a group,” Dolce said.
As for now, the Pats will have to wait and see. They’ve got talent; it’s just a matter of racking up enough points to break into the win column.
Pilgrim will be back in action on Thursday when it takes on Hope and North Kingstown at PCTA.
“Hopefully we can go .500,” Dolce said. “We still haven’t faced Barrington, which is very good. Toll Gate’s good. It’ll be interesting. North Kingstown’s real good. It should be very interesting.”