SPORTS

Taking the good with the bad

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Every so often I will take on a handful of quick-hit items in my column rather than one encapsulating thought. It’s a busy time of year and a lot has happened in the past week or two, so I figure this would be a good week to unpack a few things.

Here are some of the things that have gone down in the past week or so that I want to speak on.

First, on Monday morning I discovered that the high school swim state championships will be back at Brown University this year after a winter away.

I say this every year, but the swim state championships are one of my favorite events to cover every year. Swimming is a fun sport in general, but there is something that is special when seeing so many teams and so many great swimmers all getting together for one final showdown.

The pool at Brown is beautiful, as is the entire facility and campus. I also love the late-winter vibes that you get when covering the meet. I have covered swim state championships in blizzards and on 60 degree days. It doesn’t matter, it is always such an exciting time of year. Being able to watch athletes competing on the big stage while also knowing that brighter, warmer days are ahead of us. Feels like the kick off to spring in a way.

So, I was thrilled to see that things will be heading back to Brown. We’ll see in the next couple of weeks what guidelines will be enforced as I am sure there will be a few, but overall, it is nice getting back to a normal layout.

Speaking of upcoming state championships, I am excited to see our wrestling teams make some noise.

In the four years that I have been in Rhode Island, our wrestling clubs have been a little bit of a mixed bag. Some big years, some quiet ones. Seems like outside of Hendricken we have not had a consistent result.

But, this year is different. Hendricken is always in the mix and has a handful of state hopefuls, but Cranston West and Johnston have each emerged as forces as well.

West did not exactly sneak up on us. The Falcons finished in the top 10 last year and were competitive the season before, but this year, they have been one of the top two or three teams in the state and seem to have a legitimate chance at a team title.

Johnston, despite having an undersized roster, is undefeated entering this week and has a solid crop of seniors. The Panthers have flown under the radar but will have a chance at making some serious noise at states in a few weeks.

Toll Gate as well, the Titans always put up solid numbers and this year is no different. Although a team title is not likely, Toll Gate has some real strong grapplers that will be worth following down the stretch here. This is the strongest that our wrestling teams have been collectively in four-plus years.

On a down note, I unfortunately had to report on a sour story that occurred last week.

The Pilgrim and Johnston boys basketball game was postponed after a few Johnston students made inappropriate remarks regarding former Pilgrim principal Gerry Habershaw, who passed away in November.

Once the online comments were seen by Pilgrim students, some hostile exchanges took place and Johnston’s superintendent decided to postpone the game until this Friday night.

There really is not much to add to this story at this point. It is quite clear that the Johnston students crossed the line, and given the nature of the online remarks, it was the right decision to not have the teams and student sections meet.

Since the story was published, I have had a number of people reach out expressing a bunch of emotions and opinions, as you can imagine.

I heard a little bit of everything, but what I heard the most was people in the Johnston community feeling bothered that a couple of kids embarrassed the entire school, and that it was unfair that people were taking it out on the entire student body as a result.

I was not directly asked to give my personal thoughts on the matter, but I will do that right now because I feel that they may be of some interest to those who reached out.

I think the kids in Johnston that were responsible should be disciplined, and I feel that it should be harsh. I understand that kids will be kids, and I understand that a few bad apples do not reflect the character of the Johnston student body as a whole. However, the couple kids that were the ring leaders absolutely need to be held accountable. Their actions were disrespectful, inflammatory and totally unnecessary.

For the rest of the fans? I do not think the kids should lose the chance to attend future games, home or away. With the playoffs coming up, it would be a shame to see an entire student body punished over a select few kids.

In my time covering Johnston sports, I have had nothing but positive experiences. I do believe that Johnston has a wonderful sports scene overall. In this case though? There is absolutely no excuse for what happened. Whether it be suspension, permanent bans from school events, both, I don’t know. I will let the powers at be decide. At the end of the day though, it was pretty sad to see what went down.

Lastly, on a more positive note, local boxing legend Jaime Clampitt will be returning to the ring for her second bout since returning after an eight-year hiatus.

Clampitt, 45, is one of the most decorated female boxers ever and was inducted into the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame. Last summer, she returned to the ring at Cranston Stadium and is slated for her next match on Feb. 19th at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.

Let Clampitt be an inspiration to all of us, because that is exactly what she is.

At 45 years old, she is still competing in the sport that she loves and is doing it at a high level. She is a mother, has nothing else to prove, but is doing it because she is passionate about it. What a story.

On a similar note, hockey coach and Cranston native David Quinn is living out his dream of being at the Olympics.

He goal was to always play for the USA team, but his career was cut short due to health complications. However, he adapted, made the most of the situation by getting into coaching, then worked his way all the way to the NHL and national ranks.

This is another inspirational story that I love reading about. Quinn could have easily quit and walked away from what he loved after the tragic ending to his playing career. Instead, he embraced the change and has become one of the best coaches of this generation. Kudos to him.

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