The St. Joseph’s Academy cross country team scored a perfect 15 to win the 2018 Class 5A, Region 2 Cross Country Championship on November 3. The Redstickers had the top five finishers in the three-mile race and qualified for the Class 5A state championship on November 13.
There were 14 complete teams and 91 finishers in the regional meet at Highland Road Park. Rounding out the top three were Mandeville (68 points) and Fontainebleau (86 points).
SJA’s top varsity finishers were junior Isabelle Brown, 1st place, 17:52; sophomore Sophie Martin, 2nd place, 18:11; senior Lauren Hendry, 3rd place, 18:22; sophomore Lydia Poche, 4th place, 18:32 (personal record); freshman Maddie Gardiner, 5th place, 18:35; and sophomore Anna Camille Eagleton, 8th place, 18:33.
“This was a great day for our team,” said head coach Mark LaHaye. “Finishing first through fifth for a perfect score in the regional against most of the same competition we will face at state was incredible. Something like that is simply not supposed to happen in 5A. But, we did it and in dominating fashion. All six of our runners finished under 19 minutes. No other team in any classification currently has more than one runner under 19:00; and we presently have eight. We’re just crazy fast right now.”
Brown said the team’s performance was exhilarating. “Regionals was an incredible race,” she said. “We finished with a perfect score, which is a huge accomplishment. I know our team is ready for state and to show everyone how hard we have worked to reach this level of excellence.”
Hendry said the double wins spoke to the depth and strength of the team. “Scoring a perfect 15 points is something that does not happen that often, and the fact that we were able to do this at one of our championship meets is very impressive,” she said. “I think our performances this weekend definitely fired us up even more for state, and we are so ready.”
Eagleton said the team went into the championship meet with the goal of perfection, “and we were able to do just that. Even though we may not have had as many PRs or SBs as we did at Metro, I feel like we are all really happy with what we did on Saturday. I am so proud of our team and what we have accomplished. After Saturday, we are all certainly very excited for next Tuesday. Watch out Natchitoches, here we come!”
Later that day, SJA’s second top-seven runners competed in the St. Michael Warrior Run, also at Highland Road Park. The runners finished first in a field that featured 18 complete teams and 157 finishers. SJA scored 29 points to finish ahead of St. Michael (91 points) and Episcopal (112 points).
SJA’s top seven varsity finishers were freshman Lilly Leonard, 3rd place, 19:27 (personal record); freshman Elise Jones, 4th place, 19:29; senior Angelle Martin, 6th place, 19:37 (personal record); senior Taylor Winters, 7th place, 19:38 (personal record); sophomore Kate Ritchie, 9th place, 19:44; freshman Ava Lemoine, 13th place, 19:54 (personal record); and junior Mary Claire Saia, 14th place, 19:57 (personal record).
“We again dominated,” LaHaye said, “and we did this while running basically our ‘B Team’ against the ‘A Teams” of all the local schools. In this race, we had five runners finish in the top 10 and all seven in the top 15. The depth on this team is just unbelievable.”
Saia expressed pride in the outcome of both meets. “Not only did our top seven finish with a perfect score in their race, but our 8-14 runners also won their race. We have worked incredibly hard all season to fully shape each individual runner to better the overall team, and I think that puts us in great shape for our final meets.”
Ritchie said it was rewarding to compete in and win two meets. “This shows how strong our team is,” she said. “Everyone is so ready and so prepared for state. We couldn’t be more excited.”
The Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Cross Country State Meet is November 13 at Northwestern State University.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Tina LaHaye