Samantha Withers sweeps three distance events to help Episcopal School of Acadiana take 2nd in Class B _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Episcopal of Acadiana Samantha Withers wins the Class B 1,600-meter run at the LHSAA state track and field championships Thursday at LSU's Bernie Moore Stadium.

Episcopal School of Acadiana distance runner Samantha Withers may only be in eighth grade, but youth didn’t keep her from lifting the Falcons to a runner-up finish Thursday night at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Championship Track and Field Meet at LSU.

Withers won all three individual events she competed in and played a part in 40 of the Falcons’ 61 points, earning her the Class B girls most outstanding performer of the meet. Withers also was a catalyst in ESA finishing as the Class B runner-up.

“It feels really good,” Withers said. “Great, actually. I’m really excited right now.

“I’m really proud of myself (Thursday).”

Withers started her day setting a personal record in a dominating win in the 1600-meter run with a time of 5 minutes, 43.75 seconds. She beat runner-up Olivia Slaytor of Grace Christian by more than 17 seconds in a personal record-setting performance.

She followed that performance with another victory and personal record in the 800 with a time of 2:31.67, edging teammate Breigh Rodriguez, who finished second with a time of 2:33.15.

Finally, Withers put the finishing touches of her sweep with a convincing win in the 3200-meter run, finishing in 12:46.65, almost seven seconds faster than second-place finisher Slaytor.

“I actually came in expecting to win all three races, and I was really hoping that I would,” Withers said. “I started running in the sixth grade because my cousin ran, and I wanted to be like her. … I think this was a good start.”

If that wasn’t enough, less than 30 minutes after finishing the 3200-meter run, she ran the third leg of the 4x400-meter relay for the Falcons, assisting them in running a time of 4:25.30 for another first-place.

“She’s a beast,” said ESA girls track coach Sarina Lapeyrouse. “She works hard and she doesn’t back down from anything. Any challenge, she accepts it. Her performance is impressive and even more impressive that it’s an eighth- grader.”

With such a dominant performance under her belt before she even reaches high school, there wouldn’t seem to be too much to aspire to, but that’s not the attitude Withers maintains.

Lapeyrouse said Withers will likely continue to improve and try to set better and better personal records.

“She’s just going to keep making personal records and keep running and keep doing what she needs to do,” Lapeyrouse said.

The Falcons were the Class B runner-up despite having a relatively small number of athletes competing.

Lapeyrouse said the result is the culmination of hard work and dedication.

“I am so proud of these girls,” Lapeyrouse said. “They worked so hard all season, they put forth the time and the effort and it really showed (Thursday).”