Fueled by the efforts of standout seniors Molly Keating and Dakota Dailey-Harris, La Salle Academy captured its second straight girls’ title at Sunday’s RIIL Outdoor Track & Field Championship, held at Brown University Stadium. The Rams defeated runner-up Hope High, 82-70. Classical was third with 55 points.
Hope was competing without top sprinter and multiple state titlist Royal Cheatham, who was nursing an injury.
“We knew Hope and Classical were the two teams,” La Salle head coach Dave Wright said. “Hope did a heckuva job without Royal. They were right in it until the end. They just ran out of events and kids. Classical, we knew they were going to be good. They spread out their points.”
La Salle, which copped its seventh consecutive indoor crown this past winter, accumulated a considerable amount of its points from its two stars. Keating collected 24 points by winning the 800-meter run (2 minutes, 11.15 seconds), placing second in the 1,500 (4:30.01, US #12) and taking third in the 3,000 (10:12.7). Dailey-Harris added 24 more points by winning the high jump (5 feet, 10 inches, US #5), finishing second in the long jump (18- ¼), placing fourth in the triple jump (35-10 ½) and running a leg on the school’s second-place 4x100 relay (49.85) squad.
“The kids came out big,” Wright said. “They always seem to do that. They are very consistent through the year. They know we always aim for this day. I can’t say enough about Molly and Dakota. They put it out there for the team. They both go out there and do three (or more) events and they put it all out there and empty it. It’s tough. A lot of times they sacrifice individual performances and wins for the sake of the team.”
To no one’s surprise, Dailey-Harris captured her specialty, besting her state outdoor mark with a career-best leap. The University of Miami-bound leaper cleared all but one of her heights on her first attempt.
She needed two tries to make 5-5. Her initial attempt came after running a leg on the 4x100 team that was just .35 of a second from the winning time posted by defending champion Hope.
“I was kind of worried after I ran the (4x100),” Dailey-Harris admitted. “I missed on my first attempt, but on my second I got 5-5 and I was able to go from there. My legs were a little bit tired and I was able to work through that.”
The gifted jumper held off Central Falls junior Tiffany Jenkins, who was second with a personal best of 5-5. Jenkins actually held the lead after making that attempt on her first try, but Dailey-Harris was able to take care of business the rest of the way. She nearly made six feet on her second attempt.
She’ll have a chance to achieve that milestone in the next two weeks, beginning with the New England Championships on Saturday at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine. The New Balance Nationals in North Carolina on June 16 will be next on her agenda
Dailey-Harris, who has won the last six state titles in the vertical leap (indoor and outdoor), feels the six-foot barrier is within her reach. She just has to correct a few things.
“I need to work on being more patient while I am up in the air,” she said. “I got to jump my highest first and put my head back.”
Putting on a blistering kick with 400 meters remaining, Classical sophomore Maddy Berkson cruised to a state record of 4:27.92 in the 1,500. Berkson was trailing the top-seeded Keating by at least 40 yards going into the last lap.
Keating, who led from the start, was passed by the talented tenth-grader on the final straightaway.
“I knew I had to try and stay sort of close to her because I have a pretty good kick,” Berkson said. “I just tried to stay with her as close as I could and outkick her, and it worked.”
Berkson, a fourth-place finisher in the 800 at this year’s New Balance Indoor Nationals, had no intention on setting a record or even cracking 4:30 in the longer race. She broke the existing mark of 4:28.54, set by Westerly great Samantha Gawrych in 2004.
“I was hoping to run low 4:30s,” Berkson said. “My best is a 4:39. I knew I could go faster than that. I thought low 4:30s was pretty attainable, but I didn’t think I would go under 4:30.”
Keating and Berkson were at it again in the 800, making it a two-person race by the time the pair hit the 400 mark at 64 seconds. This time it was Keating that was able to make it to the victory stand, taking the lead for good with about 300 meters remaining en route to her triumph.
In the 3,000, North Kingstown junior Aisha McAdams dipped under 10 minutes for the first time by winning the event with a 9:59.71 clocking. South Kingstown senior Paige Ethier was second at 10:02.73.
Freshman Quashira McIntosh proved to be a valuable scorer for Hope. The Blue Wave’s promising frosh won both sprint events, taking the 100 with a time of 12.33 seconds and the 200 at 25.25. She also ran a leg on the school’s 4x100 relay that combined for a time of 49.52.
Berkson demonstrated her versatility in the six-hour meet. Besides her top placements in the 1,500 and the 800, she also finished fourth in the javelin with a heave of 106-10 and ran a leg on the Purple’s victorious 4x400 squad that combined for a time of 3:59.58.
It was sweet redemption for Smithfield junior Angela Ragosta in the 100 high hurdles. Ragosta, the No. 3 seed, broke the tape a winner with a time of 15.11.
In last year’s outdoor state meet, Ragosta held the lead until stumbling on the last hurdle and eventually finishing fourth. During this past indoor season in the 55 hurdles, she again was one of the top seeds, but false started and was disqualified.
“I was a little nervous because the (starter) was the same guy I false-started in indoor,” Ragosta said. “I was also afraid that I would get it into my head falling again. I tried to not let it get to me today. It feels great.”
East Greenwich senior Jamie Dorsey, who arrived to the meet late after attending her school’s graduation, broke a 13-year-old state and meet record in the 400 with her time of 55.71. Hope’s Leah Grant held the old mark with a time of 56.2, set in 1999.
Katja Neves, a senior from Hope, was a double-winner. She captured the shot put with a heave of 43-4 ¾ and broke her own state record and established a meet mark in the discus with a distance of 141-10.