PROVIDENCE – Whenever Central Falls junior Steven Vazquez competes in the high jump, he stays mentally focused by just recalling in his mind what he’s done throughout the season.
“Regardless of what my other competitors do,” he said, “I just blank that away and just think about what I did in practice and what I learned so far and use it in play.”
Whenever Shea senior Freddy Gobewole toes the starting line of a sprint event, he incorporates a simple strategy, using a somewhat negative approach to ready himself for battle.
“I always look at myself as an underdog no matter what the performance list says. That just pushes me more,” he said. “I always push. You never know what your competition will do in a race.”
The state’s top seeds in their respective events used their preparation to perfection at Saturday’s RIIL Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Brown University. Vazquez defended his crown in the vertical leap with a height of 6 feet, 8 inches and Gobewole made it two-for-two in the sprint events. Just a few months after winning the 55-meter dash at the indoor states, the speedy Raider claimed the 100 title with a fast, electronically-timed 10.75 seconds.
Central Falls multiple all-stater Aleide Fernandes added to the success of area athletes at Brown Stadium by copping two events, winning the shot put with a personal-best heave of 39-0 and the discus with a toss of 121-5. She was also second in the hammer at 158-10. East Providence senior Trent Depina copped the triple jump with a distance of 44-8 ½, holding off Cumberland junior Ryan Rei (second, 45-5 ¾) by less than three inches.
“His steps were perfect. His approach was perfect. He’s just an intense competitor,” said Central Falls assistant/jump coach Dana Skorupa, about Vazquez’s performance. “He just gets in a zone."
Vazquez beat Chariho Regional junior Innocent Jacob, who was second overall with a season-best 6-6. North Kingstown’s Evan Scott and Middletown’s Cam Murphy each cleared 6-4 to take the third- and fourth-place spots.
“I felt good coming in,” said the C.F. standout. “What you got to do in this competition is stay mentally prepared. That’s what I was doing.”
Vazquez cleared his initial three heights – 6-0, 6-2 and 6-4 – on his first attempts. He made 6-6 on his second try and after Jacob cleared that height on his last attempt, Vazquez got down to business.
“I just went into competition mode, that’s it,” he said. “I just needed to run faster and jump higher, basically. I should have kept that in the top of my head throughout the whole thing.”
Skorupa sensed it would be Vazquez day by his earlier jumps.
“When he was clearing his heights on his first attempts you could tell he had it in him,” she said. “He was so focused. He just plants his foot and goes straight up with so much intensity and power. He brings everything to the bar. When he sets his mind to it, he puts his whole heart into it. He does it to everything he does. He’s a true competitor.”
In his race, Gobewole defeated second-place finisher Jalen Young of La Salle convincingly. Young was timed in 10.97.
“I got an excellent start,” said the Shea sprinter. “Coming up, I got out smooth and heard no one coming. Going into the 50-meter mark, I felt I had it. I opened up my legs, loosened up my stride. Once I have a good stride and rhythm I know I am good to go.”
Gobewole, who will compete in next week's New England Championships in Vermont, won his event still without a completely-healed shoulder, an injury suffered during the football season this past fall.
“I always thank God first. Without him, I would not be running,” he said. “I have been injured throughout the football season, throughout indoor and outdoor [track]. At the end of the year at the states, I always find a way to pull through. I always thank God for that and my mom, too. Sometimes during the season I feel like quitting because I am injured and not 100 percent. She always puts it in my mind to never quit, just push no matter what. Practice makes perfect. She always preaches that to me. I always have that in the back of my head.”
Another injured star proved successful on Saturday with Fernandes making it twice to the victory stand. The talented Warrior has been battling tendonitis in her left elbow since the beginning of the year.
“I didn’t think I was going to do so well at the states because of my injury,” she said. “But I came out and did what I had to do and it was pretty satisfying.”
Fernandes nearly had a 40-plus effort in the shot. She unleashed the ball 42 feet during one of her throws, but fouled on the attempt.
“I stepped over the toe board because I was trying to hold it in [after tossing the shot],” she said. “I just couldn’t hold it in any more. I was just trying to keep my foot in so I wouldn’t foul it, but whatever. That’s okay. I still have the New England’s.”
In the team competition, Chariho claimed its first boys’ title in the school history by slipping by defending champion Bishop Hendricken, 65-60. Ponaganset finished ninth among the 29 teams with 26 points. Shea tied Pilgrim for 11th overall with 18.
Two-time defending state titlist La Salle made it three in a row for girls with a sizable 68-47 verdict over Hope. Central Falls was eighth in the field of 27 squads with 30 points and Woonsocket was 10th overall with 25.