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Abi Turano would have been one of Westerly's captains on the outdoor track and field team this spring. Unfortunately for Turano and the Bulldogs, the season was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. | Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — Westerly High senior Abi Turano is not among the top performers in the school's girls track program.

And her name isn't anywhere on the lists of school records.

But for many high school athletes like Turano, the experience is much more than ranking as one of the best on the team. It's about the intangibles, like the thrill of competition, leadership, camaraderie and the lessons sports teach.

"I'm not like our No. 1 runner, but I think I have an important role as a captain and leader of our distance team," she said. "In cross country, I was the sole captain and we made it to states."

Turano started running track and cross country when she was in sixth grade at Westerly Middle because many of her friends were engaged in the activity.

And she continued to perform on those teams through high school until this spring, when the pandemic canceled the season.

"I continued to do it because it's just a great experience. I love running track and cross country," Turano said. "It's a great way to meet friends. I'm really close with my teammates and I really like the positive team atmosphere. I genuinely enjoy running with my teammates and being coached by coach Fed (Dave Federico) and coach Adam (Adam Decoste). It's very rewarding in less obvious ways."

Turano said she has learned many things.

"You don't have to be the best on the track to see progress. I've learned a lot about mental toughness and perseverance that I don't think I would have learned anywhere else," she said "Running has given me opportunities and lessons that I would not have learned if I played a different sport or just focused on academics."

Turano said losing her final year of outdoor track was disappointing.

"Honestly, I was upset that I wouldn't get the opportunity to have one last season with my coaches and my teammates to finalize my senior year and finish off on a really good note," she said. "I definitely wanted to improve my times in all my races, and I just wanted to be a captain and a good leader."

Turano said she misses spending time with her teammates and coaches. She misses the runs through town that the distance runners would take as part of their practice routine.

Westerly has won the past three consecutive outdoor state track championships. The program has eight state titles in all, the most of any sport at the school.

"I think it definitely starts with our coaches. They train us really well and we have a really good personal connection with them," Turano said. "The people that run track and cross country are a really good group of people. They genuinely want to see each other succeed. I think that positive team atmosphere contributes to our success."

Turano has been accepted into the honors program at Providence College where she will major in history. She plans to eventually go to law school and work as a lawyer.

Seniors will miss out on many of the typical traditions of being a senior due to the pandemic. For instance, instead of the customary graduation celebration at Augeri Field, the school will conduct an online event.

"It's definitely been disappointing to hear that we're not having some of those [events]," Turano said. "But I'm grateful we have people working to make the end of our senior year as enjoyable as possible. We are doing something to celebrate our graduation."

What advice would she give to a student entering the school in the fall?

"Be willing to take risks in both academics and athletics because the instances when you push yourself to be better are when you see true progress," Turano said.

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