A wild end to the final event of the day, the 4×400 meter relay, propelled the Townies from two points behind perennial power Bishop Hendricken to four points ahead of the Hawks and therefore state champs.
E.P., three times the runner-up in major competitions this season and two times second to Hendricken in those meets, finished with 69 total points. The Hawks finished with 65 and in a share of second with North Kingstown.
“I still don’t believe it. You think it’s never going to happen,” said an emotional EPHS head coach Bob Lyons after his first state at the helm of the Townies. “I wanted this so bad for our kids. They deserved this.”
The Townies trailed Hendricken, E.P.’s nemesis this spring, by two (63-61) heading into the 4×4 relay. The teams traded positions two and three throughout the race behind eventual winner North Kingstown before the Townies’ anchorman Josh Rambert edged in front of his Hawks’ competitor around the final turn on the last lap.
But as the two approached the finish line, about 20 meters from the tape, both began to stumble from the excessive heat and pressure of the moment, each eventually staggered to the ground. Rambert, to his great credit, managed to pick himself up in time to secure second place for the Townies and the eight points that came with it.
The anchor for Hendricken, however, wasn’t as lucky. Both a Central and Classical runner passed him prior to the line as any hopes of at least a share of the state title faded away from the Hawks. Hendricken earned just two points for its fifth-place result in the 4×4.“If this ending happened in a movie, you’d say it was so corny with the kids stumbling at the end. But that’s the way it happened. I still can’t believe it,” said Coach Lyons.
The state title was the fifth all-time for the Townies and first for East Providence since 1996. The Townies’ other championships came in 1975, 1954 and 1951.
Sprint standout Ryan Williams led East Providence to the team triumph Saturday, the junior completed a superb in-state season by winning both the 100 and 200 meter titles.
Williams, the No. 1 ranked runner in both sprints regionally as well as state-wide heading into Saturday, clocked a time of 10.98 seconds to edge past Hendricken’s Lee Moses (11 flat) in the 100. In the 200, he clocked a 22.39 to fend off Classical’s Derek Jackson (22.43) for the victory.
For Williams, the state titles put him into the upper echelon of elite East Providence sprinters and ended what had been a string of disappointing performances at the state meet.
“This year I showed up to practice and worked more. I did what I needed to do. I worked hard. The coaching staff prepared me well. My starts were better. I knew what I had to do today and I did it. Everything just came together,” Williams said of his performance.
He’ll head to the 68th Annual New England Interscholastic Track and Field Championships Saturday, June 8, at Willow Brook Park in New Britain, Conn., as the favorite to again win the 100 and 200. Williams said he is relishing the opportunity.
“I’m going to New Englands to win both. I’m going in ranked No. 1 in the 1 and 2,” he added. “Hopefully I do what I need to do and I come out with the victories.”
Rambert’s late heroics came after a pair of superb individual efforts as the senior won the 110 meter high hurdles (15.49) and ran second in the 300 intermediate hurdles (41.25) where he was the sixth seed coming into states.
“Ryan came through big time. Rambo came through big time,” Coach Lyons said. “I’m just as happy as I can be for all of the kids.”
Of note as well for the Townies Saturday, senior jump standout Chris Moura placed second (21 feet, half inch) and third (42’6.5″) in the long and triple jumps, respectively.
“It was a total team effort,” Coach Lyons added. “It’s great for the families. It’s great for the kids. They earned this.”
Click here for complete results from the state championship meet.