The St. Joseph’s Academy cross country team won for the fifth time in as many starts, capturing the 36th annual SJA Cross Country Invitational, held September 29 at Highland Road Park. The meet featured 28 complete teams and 224 finishers.
The top seven varsity finishers were junior Isabelle Brown, 3rd place, 18:13; senior Lauren Hendry, 4th place, 18:30; sophomore Sophie Martin, 6th place, 18:32 (personal record); junior Virginia Dirks, 8th place, 18:51 (season best); sophomore Anna Camille Eagleton, 9th place, 19:08 (personal record); sophomore Kate Ritchie, 11th place, 19:23 (personal record); and freshman Maddi Gardiner, 42nd place, 20:53.
Brown’s time of 18:13 was her best effort of the season. “I am beyond excited to see my team excel at this level,” she said. “We are getting closer and closer to reaching our goals and leaving an even bigger legacy for years to come. This past week, we did a really great job of communicating during the race and finishing in a close pack. I am eager to see how we perform in the weeks to come.”
Head coach Mark LaHaye said the girls ran a smart, team-oriented race. “Lauren, Isabelle, Sophie and Virginia ran as a tight foursome, with AC and Kate within eyesight as a tight twosome,” he said. “This was a season-best race for us in many ways. We ran our fastest total time of 1:33.16, ran our fastest average time of 18:39.25 and ran our best 1-5 split of only 55 seconds. To the best of my knowledge, we posted the lowest team score ever in the history of this meet.”
Hendry said winning the meet hosted by her school was rewarding. “I always love our meet because we usually have great weather like we did this weekend,” she said. “The competition was great, and everyone performed well. We had many PRs on our team. The support from everyone from SJA was so awesome.”
Dirks said the meet was fun and exciting. “It was awesome to see all the SJA supporters helping out to make the meet run so smoothly and, an added bonus, to win our own meet,” she said.
Ritchie said the team performed at the highest level. “We had six personal records and eight season bests, which was definitely a great achievement for us,” she said. “The meet showed how strong we are running together and pushing each other to do our very best. We had great weather to run in and great competition to run against. We were also all very ready to compete for personal records and another win. I’m so proud of our whole team for a great weekend and our triumph in the season so far.”
LaHaye said this year’s SJA Invitational was the biggest ever. He credited the efforts of cross country parents, as well as Athletic Director Dorinda Beaumont and coaches Liz Fontenot, Mackenzie Brown and deLynn Stelly, for the event’s success. “We had well over 1,500 runners with their parents and coaches from 67-plus high schools and 45-plus middle schools that we served,” LaHaye said.
Next up for the Redstickers is the CHS Invitational on October 6 at Highland Road Pak. The varsity division starts at 9:30 a.m., followed by the JV race at 10:30 a.m.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Tina LaHaye