PROVIDENCE — After his Pop Warner football team, the Edgewood Eagles, won a national title in 2008, Shea senior Freddy Gobewole figured a similar fate would occur at the high school level.
It never happened.
While Gobewole was a top running back for the Raiders, the teams struggled during his career with just nine total wins, and no playoff appearances, the last four years.
To make matters worse, a dislocated shoulder, suffered during a scrimmage in August, kept him off the field for half the season this fall.
Just 6.43 seconds after his feet left the starting blocks on Saturday, Gobewole finally got his chance to win a championship.
That's the time the Raider sprinter recorded to win the 55-meter dash at the R.I. Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Providence Athletic Facility. He won convincingly over Moses Brown's Josh Gilkinson, who placed second at 6.65.
The win caps off an undefeated season for Gobewole that included victories at the RITCA Invitational, the Northern Division Championship and last week's Class B Championship.
“I actually thank God a lot,” he said. “I was never the elite that everybody talks about. Coming in this year, they gave me a label and I just did what I had to do to continue being that. Josh Gilkinson from Moses Brown, he was another threat that was coming up. I never raced him during indoor. He came out of nowhere doing really well. I never raced him before in any dual meets or class meets. This was my first time racing him. He gave me a good push. I just came out of the blocks nice, I was smooth running and I knew that once I got out good there was no turning back.”
Gobewole, who was also a third-place finisher in the 300 at 36.77, came into his final indoor season prepared to win a title. In the short sprint last year, he was third in the 55 and 100 dashes, respectively, at the indoor and outdoor championships. In both races, he finished behind individual winner Kadeem Kushimo of La Salle and Barrington's Mike Read.
Gobewole delayed having surgery to his injured shoulder this indoor season with the intent that he could finish business in his specialty.
“Coming into track I knew I was one of the top (sprinters) after Kadeem and Read left,” he said. “That's what made my decision about the surgery because I knew I could have a good chance at the states. I think I made the right decision.”
Gobewole joins Central Falls senior Aleide Fernandes as the only area athletes to achieve gold at the state meet. Fernandes added her sixth and seventh titles in state meet competition by winning the 20-pound weight and the shot put on Saturday.
The overwhelming favorite in both events, Fernandes copped the weight with a distance of 55 feet, 10 ¼ inches and the shot with a season-best heave of 38-1 ¼. The victories were bittersweet for the Warrior standout.
“It's sad because I'm a senior and this is the last time that I'll be throwing here,” she said. “Now I just have to work hard and get ready for the nationals.”
In the weight, an event that she is ranked fourth nationally, Fernandes demonstrated consistency with all her throws surpassing 50 feet. On her second of six attempts inside the circle, the C.F. all-stater uncorked her winning distance.
“It was actually a bad throw,” she said. “I was a little off, but it went far I guess. I think I messed up on my second spin. I like backed away from the ball and I still hit my delivery.”
Although she captured three titles in the field events (hammer, shot put, discus) during the outdoor season last spring, Fernandes erased the disappointment of the 2010 indoor meet where a pectoral injury hampered her performance and she “only” placed second in her two events despite, again, being the favored competitor.
“It's a nice feeling,” said Central Falls weight/assistant coach Nic Palazzo. “It’s a nice way for her to end her career in this facility. She was disappointed last year but she knew what she had to do this year. She looked great in both events (on Saturday). I was very happy with her.”
Palazzo believes Fernandes' confidence to excel at the state meet, particularly in the 20-pound weight, was boosted even more when she won that title at the Small School Championship with a season-best of 56-2 ¼.
The focus now in on the New Balance Nationals in New York City March 11-13.
“Once she hit that 56, she knew she could do it,” Palazzo said. “And she can still improve. We are looking forward to nationals. Her confidence is growing.”
Central Falls junior Steven Vazquez wasn't quite as lucky as his counterpart in the high jump, but he still finished a respectable third overall with a height of 6-4. Vazquez, the defending outdoor titlist, was among the top seeds along with Chariho's Innocent Jacob and Roger's Divon Bailey. Jacob and Bailey claimed the top two spots Saturday with Jacob nearly reaching historic proportions with a leap of 6-10. Bailey was next at 6-8.
A day earlier, Vazquez was fulfilling his role as a starting point guard on the C.F. basketball team in a 78-67 loss to Tolman in the Division II playoffs.
“I started off a little sluggish,” Vazquez said. “I hit the bar at 5-10. I cleared the bar at 6-0 and 6-2 and got 6-4 on my second try. My knee was hurting a little from (Friday's) playoff game.”