Brian Iafrate coached the Johnston girls’ cross country team last year, but this year he’s taking on even more responsibility.
Iafate is the new head coach of the boys’ team, to go along with his duties with the girls, and he’s already excited about the prospects.
The Panthers graduated just two contributing runners from a year ago, and they bring back a decent-sized group of returners who are poised to help Johnston improve on its 4-8 record in dual meets from a season ago.
“For the most part, all of the boys we have return from last season,” Iafrate said. “We’ve got a good core group.”
Last season’s top runner, Chris Fagbote is gone, as is Avery Broccoli, another one of the team’s better runners.
But returning are seniors John Varone, Ian Tvenstrup and Dennis Poirier. Those three are expected to make up the top group.
Just behind them are others like senior Joe Pilloni and Josh Oliveira, rounding out a solid five.
The other runners on the team – Joe Bongiovanni, Abdullah Jobe, Ryan McKeon and Mike Pennachia – aren’t far behind either, making the team’s ladder far from set in stone.
“For the most part, we’re all in the same range for the boys,” Iafrate said. “So It’s very good because they all push each other.”
Already, the results have been good.
“We’ve made a lot of progress since the first day,” Iafrate said. “Our kids are working very hard. We had our first race on Saturday at Burrillville, in the Injury Fund, and we’ve already seen improvement with the times from Saturday to Monday.”
The team is currently 2-4 overall but will have a chance to improve this coming week. The Panthers take on Cranston East, Cranston West, Mt. Pleasant and Pilgrim on Monday at Warwick City Park at 4 p.m.
“We’re definitely trying to improve and do a little bit better than last year,” Iafrate said. “That’s always our goal anyway, especially when returners come back. I don’t see why we can’t be there if we continue to work at the pace we’re working at. I think we’re going to be okay.”