SRA harriers grab All-State honors

SRA harriers grab All-State honors

St. Raphael Academy sophomore Rachael Mongeau exits the woods and gets ready to run the final quarter mile of Sunday afternoon’s girls’ state championship race at Ponaganset High’s 3.1-mile course. Mongeau earned First-Team All-State honors by placing seventh in a personal-best time of 19:25.89. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Mongeau places seventh in RIIL girls’ championship race; Medeiros, Johnston capture top-15 finishes in boys’ event

GLOCESTER – It’s been a long time since the St. Raphael Academy cross country program had a runner achieve All-State honors at the RIIL Championships at Ponaganset High, but on Sunday afternoon, three standout runners were recognized during the post-event ceremony inside the school’s gymnasium for placing in the top 15 of their respective races.

And the biggest honor went to one of the program’s smallest runners, sophomore Rachael Mongeau, who became the first female in nearly a quarter of a century to earn First-Team All-State honors by taking seventh place out of 146 runners in a personal-best time of 19:25.89.

Mongeau, who took first place in the RIIL Class C meet the previous weekend in a time of 20:22.71, clearly brought out her very best on the state’s biggest stage. It wasn’t an easy race – in the woods, she admitted that she stumbled in the mud and there was a bit of elbowing among the runners – but she did everything she could to crash the top 10 and make her move toward the top.

“I kind of set my mind to getting top 15,” said Mongeau. “I wasn’t really expecting getting top seven, but I had a good feeling. When I started off, I got boxed out, but I was just able to push it, get into the top 10, and keep moving up.”

“The way she ran today was just guts,” noted SRA head coach Chris Magill. “She laid it all on the line. She came in here ranked 18th in the state and she was seventh today. She went for broke and she had nothing left, and that was just an unbelievable race for her. She understands the training plan and this is the culmination of all her hard work. For a runner that wasn’t highly touted coming out of middle school, she’s gotten the job done.”

Two more runners who got the job done were the 1-2 punch on the boys’ team, junior Nasavell Medeiros and senior Reilly Johnston, who respectively finished 14th and 15th in the 147-man field. Medeiros, who turned in a time of 16:31.98, claimed the final spot among the Second-Team All-State selections, while Johnston, who turned on the jets down the stretch to finish a fifth of a second behind Medeiros, earned Third-Team honors.

Medeiros surprised a lot of folks by hanging with the lead pack through the first mile, but he started to drop back and eventually fell out of the top 10. Nevertheless, his time was more than a minute better than his showing at the Class C meet, which was won by Johnston in a time of 16:27.12.

“Nas went out aggressively,” added Magill. “He has the talent to do it, so he hung in there. The pace was a little bit too quick for him today, but he’ll be back. He was 10th at the Class C meet last week; he had a tough race, but he came back here and got Second-Team All-State, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. He’s only a junior, so he’ll have a chance to finish higher next year.”

In the team standings, the Saints, who placed 12th a season ago with 319 points, improved slightly by finishing 11th out of 19 teams with 308 and also received a 32nd-place finish from sophomore Darius Kipyego, whose time was 17:14.43.

“I’m pleased with 11th place,” said Magill, who is assisted by Steven Bishop and Lisa Mongeau. “We were just a little off up front, but I’ll take 11th. It’s a step up from what we did last year, and it shows that we’re going in the right direction.”

Next up for Mongeau, Medeiros, and Johnston is Saturday’s 84th annual New England Championships at Derryfield Park in Manchester, N.H., and according to Magill, “I dont think St. Ray’s has been represented at New Englands since 2001. It’s exciting.”

St. Raphael Academy senior Reilly Johnston, left, junior Nasavell Medeiros, center, and sophomore Darius Kipyego are off to the races at the beginning of the boys’ race at Sunday afternoon’s RIIL Championships at Ponaganset High.