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PROVIDENCE â For the past several months, Jalen Evans has been punishing his opponents with his blazing speed on the football field.
In his inaugural season of track and field, the Woonsocket High sophomore is hoping to do the same on the indoor oval.
âI am very confident,â Evans said. âWhen I see my competition, I get very excited. My adrenaline starts pumping. I just want to be at full speed. When I am at full speed, it feels great.â
The 15-year-old standout, who was one of the star running backs for the Villa Novansâ football team that captured their second straight Division II Super Bowl earlier this month, made a successful debut to his newest sport on Wednesday night.
Competing in a Northern Division opener that also included Tolman and Mount St. Charles Academy, Evans came home with a trio of first-place efforts. The Villa Novansâ sprinter copped the 55 â and 300-meter dashes and also ran the opening leg of the winning 4x200 relay squad.
Longtime WHS coach George Briggs, who lost a considerable amount of talent from last yearâs team, couldnât be happier with his latest star. Evans was timed in a fast 6.7 seconds in the 55, clocked 38.4 for the 300 and combined with fellow gridiron player and first-time indoor runner Anthony Neal, Alex Correia and Tyler Bourk to take the relay with a time of 1:40.3.
âThis was really his first dual meet and I was very impressed,â Briggs said. âHeâs very coachable, a tremendous talent. Every so often a coach gets lucky with a young man like this.â
Evans decided to don a pair of racing flats to get faster on the gridiron. He realized from the first day of practice that he made the right choice.
âThereâs a lot of learning,â he said. âThey taught me a lot of stuff the first day. But when I went down in my starting point and felt the first full speed run without pads on, I was just excited. I was like, âThis is going to be a good year.ââ
How good a year has yet to be determined for Evans? But judging by his performances last night, it certainly looks promising.
â(Football) coach (Carnell) Henderson told me that this guy would help us,â Briggs said. âHeâs the real deal, lightning quickâŠand heâs just a tenth-grader.â
Evans is one of several new athletes for the indoor squad this winter. Woonsocket graduated an abundance of point-scorers from last year.
âItâs a completely different team,â said Briggs said. âWe lost so many seniors. I think we had ten kids that made the state meet last year and everyone graduated. We are starting out with a lot of untested talentâŠI think weâll get better as the year goes along. We are a little thin in the distance events. We are thin in the hurdles. But we are solid in the sprints and we are very solid in the weight events.â
Six other local schools opened up their dual meet season on Wednesday night. Lincoln, Central Falls and Ponaganset faced each other in a tri-meet and St. Raphael, Cumberland and Shea also battled together on the oval.
Cumberland won eight events en route to an easy sweep in its meet. Sophomore Trevor Crawley had an impressive 34-second victory in the 3,000 with his time of 9:30.8 to highlight the Clippersâ efforts.
Saints junior Robert Parker was a double-winner. Taking the lead with 400 meters remaining, Parker outdistanced the Clippersâ Matt Sutcliffe in the 1,500 with a time of 4:20.7. Less than two hours later he won the 1,000, breaking the tape in 2:54.6.
Parker is coming off a cross-country season where he missed qualifying for the state meet by a mere two placements.
âI have been practicing really hard,â he said. âThe 1,500, I really went out hard. I felt good and halfway into the race I just pushed the pace a little.â
Parker has a little extra motivation this winter after his 27th place finish at the Class C cross-country class meet prevented his from earning a spot at the states.
âI definitely want to do a lot better in indoor,â he said. âI have been training hard.â
Lincoln junior Dan Janetti had a strong time in the 300, winning the event with a 38.6 clocking. Janetti also ran a leg on the Lionsâ first-place 4x400 relay squad of Tom Tallo, Jacob Palladini and Geoffrey Conklin that combined for a time of 3:58.0. Senior teammate Aaron Brunelle earned two crowns, taking the 1,500 (4:44.3) and the 1,000 (2:53.5).
In its meet with Tolman and Woonsocket, Mount St. Charles had some fine efforts from distance aces Patrick Butler and Brian Deer, the schoolâs top two cross-country runners. Butler claimed the 3,000 title with a time of 9:38.2 and Deer was the first across the line in the 1,500 at 4:31.8.
The talented tandem then waged a back-and-forth battle in the 1,000 where Butler edged Deer by two-tenths of a second with his winning time of 2:53.1.