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WEST GREENWICHâ€”Dark clouds and cold temperatures swept across the back fields at Exeter-West Greenwich High School Monday afternoon, making the sunny skies and 60-degree weather seem like a distant memory.
â€śHere comes the rain,â€ť remarked EWG senior Jess Patalano as she warmed up to throw the javelin.
Passing, intermittent squalls soon followed which made for a challenging â€“ albeit typical New England â€“ spring high school track meet in the Knightsâ€™ opener with South Kingstown and Westerly.
For EWG â€“ and every other team in the state for that matter â€“ this is what the start of the spring sports season holds; cold, often unpredictable weather.
Yet even with the erratic conditions the Knights are significantly ahead of where they were at this point last year.
The biggest difference for EWG has been the addition of the indoor track program, which has allowed a number of athletes to bridge the gap between cross country and outdoor track.
â€śItâ€™s been a major, major improvement,â€ť junior Tori Ebert says. â€śHaving all the kids workout throughout the winter â€“ have that little break â€“ and continue through the spring has made all of the difference from cross country to know.â€ť
â€śIt helps us tremendously to do indoor,â€ť EWG coach Scott Millar says. â€śWe can get our fitness level up and our training and just continue that right into the outdoor.â€ť
All one has to do to see the truth behind that is see what the EWG boys did Monday, defeating Westerly â€“ who finished tied for second at outdoor states last season â€“ 55-53 to earn a split in its first tri meet of the spring.
The victory over the Bulldogs is the Knightsâ€™ first since 2008 and snaps a streak of four consecutive winless seasons.
Junior Mike Dampier had a very strong first meet of the season despite the difficult conditions and should be one of the leaders for EWG on the oval this season with seniors Nathan Stomberg, Richard Satchwill and junior Donald Galloway.
Senior Zach Hurd is the defending state champion in the javelin and is the early favorite to hold onto his title this season.
â€śItâ€™s going pretty good,â€ť Hurd says. â€śMy goal this year is 210 [feet]. Iâ€™m going to try and be one of the top in the nation and Iâ€™m setting the bar high.
â€śItâ€™s a realistic goal though because Iâ€™ve trained all year round.â€ť
Hurd â€“ who also competed in the 100 Monday â€“ will be joined in throwing event by senior Tony Tavares.
On the girls side Ebert â€“ the 2013 Southern Rhode Island Newspapers Girls Track MVP â€“ enters the outdoor season with two indoor state titles in the shot put but none during the spring.
That is a streak the EWG junior intends on snapping this season.
â€śThis is my time to take it,â€ť Ebert says. â€śThis is my year to take it and I need to take it now.
â€śâ€¦Itâ€™s been a challenge getting back into the conditioning season but I am more than excited to compete in all four [throwing events].â€ť
In addition to Ebert â€“ who is widely regarded as one of, is not the, best female throwers in the state â€“ junior Morgan Hart, fresh off a tremendous gymnastics season, is the returning silver medalist in the pole vault.
Junior Katie Millar, a consistent scorer in the middle and long distance events during the indoor season, will also be another Knight to watch out for.