Look out for these track stars in 2011!
Central Falls High's Aleide Fernandes
Just like the other winter sports we cover, the indoor track season will enter a new year on Saturday.
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Some goals that were set back in early November remain the same, but with 2011 now beginning thereâ€™s also those New Yearâ€™s resolutions.
Or, shall we say, a new set of goals â€“ perhaps ones that become more realistic after the first two months of the season.
Will those goals (new and old) be accomplished? Time will only tell.
Hereâ€™s a glimpse at what is potentially in store from our top local track & field athletes in the coming months.
Central Falls standout Aleide Fernandes has finally reached her senior year. Fernandes burst onto the season in the tenth grade when she shocked pre-meet favorite Brittany Lawson of Woonsocket to capture the shot put at the indoor state meet.
Since that performance, Fernandes has been a regular fixture at the top of the rankings. She copped the shot again in the outdoor states as a sophomore and at last yearâ€™s outdoor meet was the recipient of three titles (hammer, shot and discus).
Right now, all signs are for a prosperous season on the indoor surface. Currently, Fernandes has the stateâ€™s best distances in the shot (37 feet, 9 inches) and the 20-pound weight (53-11).
In the weight throw, the CF star is more than six feet ahead of her nearest pursuer, Amber Jones of Classical (47-1/2).
A pectoral injury towards the latter part of the indoor track season last year sidetracked the favored Fernandes somewhat at the 2010 state meet and she finished as a runner-up in the shot and the weight.
It was obvious she didnâ€™t let that affect her mindset the next season as evident by her three-title performance at the outdoor state meet.
C.F. head coach Ernest Fennell expects big things out of his thrower.
â€śI think she is very confident this year,â€ť he said. â€ś(Assistant coach) Nick Palazzo has been working with her closely. She has been progressing nicely.â€ť
Besides the potential of winning her sixth and seventh individual state titles, Fernandes should surpass two milestones this winter â€“ cracking 40 feet for the shot and 60 feet in the weight.
â€śI definitely think so,â€ť Palazzo said. â€śI think the weight will be easier than the shot. But she has been working real hard in the shot, learning new things, adding a little more technique to make her a master thrower.â€ť
Based on his spectacular effort at the outdoor state meet where he snared his first individual title in the high jump with a personal-best height of 6-8, versatile junior Steven Vazquez is another Central Falls athlete that could take home gold come February.
Vazquez is a part-time leaper during indoor as he also dedicates the winter months as a varsity player for the basketball team. In the fall, heâ€™s the starting quarterback for the football squad.
Both sports have given Vazquez a slow start to indoor track. Heâ€™s nursing an ankle injury he suffered on the court a few weeks ago and is still recovering from a hip injury that he got on the gridiron.
So far, heâ€™s competed in just one meet, leaping 5-10 at the Injury Fund Relay Carnival on Dec. 9.
â€śHe stopped at the height because he really didnâ€™t need to go any higher,â€ť Fennell said. â€śHeâ€™s still dragging his feet instead of driving his knee up. He really hasnâ€™t done anything since the New England (Outdoor Championships).â€ť
Once the injuries do heal the C.F. coach figures his jumper will be in the mix again. Vazquez was third at last yearâ€™s indoor meet.
Chariho senior Innocent Jacob (6-4), sixth-place finisher at last yearâ€™s meet, and Rogers junior Divon Baily (6-6) are atop the present list.
â€śI am not really pressing him because he has basketball and he still has outdoor to do,â€ť Fennell said. â€śBut he should do well.â€ť
In last yearâ€™s girlsâ€™ outdoor state meet, the area claimed the first three places with then-freshman Kaylynn Pitts shocking the competition with a winning height of 5-3. Ponagansetâ€™s Catherine Dominick was second (5-3) and Ali Sayles of Mount St. Charles was third (5-1).
Thereâ€™s potential for another area 1-2-3 sweep this indoor campaign with Pitts and Sayles back and Lincoln senior Ariana Lefebvre. Sayles is currently tied with Chariho junior Amy Roy for the No. 1 spot in the high jump at 5-1. Lefebvre, who battled a series of injuries last year, appears to be in early-season form. She took second at the RITCA Invitational on Dec. 18.
Lefebvre has proven, when healthy, that she is a serious contender with a second, a pair of thirds and a fourth-place finish at the state level her first two years of competing.
Due to the fact that the races are won by the smallest of margins, the sprints are a tough event to predict. At present, though, the front-runner is Shea senior Fred Gobewole.
In his first season of track & field last year, Gobewole finished third in the 55-meter dash at the state meet. He then followed that effort with an identical placement in the 100 at the outdoor states.
Gobewole, a star running back for the schoolâ€™s football team, has already timed a quick, hand-held clocking of 6.3 for the dash, two-tenths faster than his next rival, Jacob. He also captured the event at Wednesdayâ€™s R.I. Track Classic with a meet record, electronically, of 6.47.
Thereâ€™s also newcomer Jalen Evans, a sophomore from Woonsocket. Like Gobewole, Evans created havoc for his opponents on the football field with his speed as a receiver. Once he further develops his form and technique, two important components for sprinters, he should make some noise statewide. He has a best of 6.7 so far this season.