One of my favorite parts about covering high school sports is the unpredictability. Sports in general are pretty unpredictable, but at the high school level, it’s about as volatile as it gets.
This past weekend marked another few days of postseason action, and there were plenty of surprises for our teams.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Barrington boys swim team knocking off Bishop Hendricken at the state meet. Since 1989 - the last time Barrington won - the Hawks have only come up short once.
That was back in 2014 when Smithfield swam away with the win.
Hendricken’s dominance in the pool is legendary. Swimming is not as popular as many other sports and for that reason, many overlook how impressive the Hawks’ run has been over the past three-plus decades. There is Mount St. Charles hockey, Hendricken’s current football dynasty, and Hendricken’s swim. Sure, there have been plenty of dominant teams that have imposed their will for years at a time, but Hendricken swimming was truly on an all-time great run.
This does not mean Hendricken’s run is over, either. The Hawks came in second. For their current standards, that is a poor showing, but for most other teams a second-place finish is a reason to celebrate.
As surprising as this defeat was, there were some signs of it being possible this winter season. Barrington edged the Hawks in the season opener, not to mention the fact that Hendricken was fresh off of graduating CJ Sheldon - one of the state’s best swimmers ever.
Still, Hendricken was the favorite and had everything it needed to win, but Barrington was simply the better team.
I can’t wait to see what Hendricken looks like next season now that it will have a chip on its shoulder. Win or lose next year, it will be fun to follow. The Hawks will either reignite their program or will look for new ways to get back on top. As a spectator, either is fine with me.
The other big surprise was the Hendricken hockey team beating rival La Salle in two games to punch its ticket to this weekend’s state championship.
I know, the Hawks beating the Rams is never really a surprise. In this case though, this was about as big of a surprise as we’ve seen in the rivalry.
La Salle was enjoying the best season in the state and one of its best in program history. The Rams were unbeaten in league play and topped the Hawks in each of their regular season meetings.
Hendricken was confident going into the matchup, as the two teams played near even when power-play goals were excluded. The Hawks felt that if they stayed out of the box, then they would be every bit as good as their rival.
That turned out to be the case and more as Hendricken rolled past La Salle.
I will say, I do feel a little sorry for La Salle.
Last football season, the Rams were the favorite over Hendricken. In that instance though, Hendricken was right there in the conversation for the state’s best team. La Salle and Hendricken were so even, but the Rams were just a little more explosive on offense. That’s why when Hendricken won, no one batted an eye because the teams really were even.
In this case, though, this felt like La Salle’s year. Sure, the Rams won a few years ago, it’s not like they have never had their moment, but they were just so dominant this season, so consistent.
As a Warwick reporter, I am far from disappointed because now it provides us with another week of fun. But, I did cringe a bit when thinking of how down the La Salle players must have been. To be the clear favorite to take it all, just to get smashed by your rival whose number you thought you finally had.
Like Hendricken swimming, there was a sign that the Hawks had a chance in hindsight.
Early in the season, the two teams battled in a holiday exhibition. The two teams rolled out much of their starting lineups that day and the Hawks rolled to a five-point win. As a scrimmage, not much was made of it, but looking back on it, I think that should have told us something.
The next upset of the weekend was the Cranston West girls basketball team, which continues to roll in the tournament.
I’ll pat myself on the back because for those of you have been keeping up with my column, you’ll see that I have been predicting a Falcons’ run.
West got off to a rough start this season but took off down the stretch. Since late January, early February, West has been arguably the state’s best team. It just had to get healthy which it ultimately did.
West beat both East Providence and Rogers last week to advance to the upcoming Final Four. Neither of those wins were shocking, but both could realistically be considered upsets. If you were to ask anyone a month ago how far West would go, I don’t think a single person would have guessed the Final Four.
I am not going to predict a state championship, but I do think West gets by Juanita Sanchez this weekend. Juanita Sanchez has an unbelievable offense - I was lucky enough to see it at work when it played Cranston East a few weeks back. However, West is deep, experienced, in a higher division, and has too much momentum. I think a state finals appearance is in the cards and at that point, anything is possible.
The last upset is Toll Gate’s Oce Lowe winning the 500 yard freestyle at the swimming states.
In the four years that I have been in Rhode Island, I had yet to see one of our girls win a title. I was thrilled to see Lowe pull it off because it is such a statement for Warwick swimming.
Pilgrim and Toll Gate have had some good swimmers that have put up solid times at states. For Lowe to finally break through and reach the top of the podium is special, and should not be overlooked.