The Bishop Hendricken cross country team made history this past weekend, claiming a 4th-place finish at the Nike National Meet in Portland, Oregon.
There were 22 teams invited from all parts of the country, and the Hawks pulled off the surprising top-5 finish to secure their place as one of the elite programs in the country.
“We’re obviously thrilled to get (the 4th-place finish). We set a goal the night before of finishing in the top-5. We felt that we had the kind of team, that if we ran the right race, under the right circumstances, with each guy running to their potential, could get it done,” said Hendricken coach Jim Doyle. “We told the guys to be in the thick of things in the middle and to charge once we hit two miles. Our guys passed two guys are that was the difference. It is a big accomplishment for these guys, we’re absolutely thrilled.”
The Hawks claimed the Rhode Island State Championship last month, but would miss out on wins at New England’s and Northeast Regionals. The Hawks were hungry entering last weekend’s national championship, and Doyle felt that they had learned from their hiccups in their past two events.
“Each course, each day, the environment, the weather, everything is different. At New Englands there was a lot of rain, a lot of mud, you get through the first mile and we weren’t there and then the last half mile is a hill. When you lose contact in a cross-country race, that cost us. It was wet weather there, then wet weather at the Northeast Regionals, then we got to nationals and it was another wet course. They really learned how to handle the adversity,” said Doyle.
La Salle also made it to the national stage, and won New Englands a few weeks ago. Doyle feels that both Hendricken and La Salle have helped put Rhode Island cross country on the map, and have helped each other get better each race.
“It says a lot, and I think it’s been like that for the past few years. La Salle this year was a truly nationally-ranked team, we saw them at the Class Championships, we saw them in New York early in the year, then at states, then at New Englands, then Northeast Regionals. We saw La Salle five times and each time was an epic battle. It gets you ready when you see tough runners and it gets you ready for the national scene when you face that level of competition all the time,” said Doyle.
Hendricken has had many great cross-country teams throughout the years, including the 2009 powerhouse that also made it to Oregon. However, Doyle feels that this year’s team is the best he has ever had.
“It is. In 2009 we went to nationals and had a team that was very good but went into nationals with a different set of circumstances. That team won states, New England’s and later Northeast Regionals. This year’s team did not, but the competition this year was certainly tougher, it has become an even more competitive event and we had to match the competition just to be there,” said Doyle.
The Hawks will now flip the page to 2019, and hope to make a return trip to the national stage.
“The bar was set back in 2009 when we went. The bar is always set high because we know how competitive it is in the state,” said Doyle. “It’s hard to get to that level, the only way you can get there is through hard work, training, and you need to have some luck, it has to be your day. All of the guys know that. The bar has certainly been raised but they’re up for the challenge.”
Jack McMahon took 45th while Aidan Tierney took 60th. Luke Henseler finished at 70, while Evan Reynolds took 89th.