For St. Thomas More track star Hannah Bourque, her senior season began with a tough decision.

Bourque excelled in two sports at STM — track and soccer. She’d played soccer since she was 4-years-old and was a key member of the Cougars soccer team her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

But she gave up the sport she said she grew up loving and, with the help of STM girls track coach Kevin Castille, she’s in the midst of her best track season ever.

“It was a difficult decision giving up soccer,” Bourque said. “Especially since it was my senior year and a big deal to be a senior on a sports team at STM. I did it because I couldn’t afford to get hurt, and I needed to focus on track. To do so, I needed to have good indoor times. Even though it is still running, it’s a different kind of running.”

Bourque said she benefited tremendously by not having the winter break from running and taking part in all three running seasons — outdoor, indoor and cross country. Castille said that three-season year has catapulted her to the next level.

“Last year she really had a good season, but two mile was a bummer,” Castille said. “This year she decided to focus on running because she let soccer go. She got into that three-season year, and this was the first time she did that. We were trying to not have her peak for indoor.”

Castille said Bourque is peaking at the right time — now. She ran her best time in the 1,600 in the regional meet and she will compete in the 800, the 1,600 and will anchor the Cougars 4x400 relay team. Castille said normally a runner as good as Bourque would run the 3200, but he has a different philosophy.

“Normally you have a kid that good, you put her in three events,” Castille said, “but I try not to do that. I try to put her in the ones that benefit her the most. I like trying to get the maximum out of a kid without having to use every ounce of everything they have. She doesn’t have to run all three (distance events). That’s a luxury for us.”

Bourque and Castille share a special bond. After Bourque’s eighth-grade year, Castille left Lafayette to compete nationally in masters meets. Bourque said his return during her junior season was the only reason she still runs today.

“I probably wouldn’t have given up running my sophomore year if he didn’t come back,” Bourque said. “He has rekindled that passion that I have for it. He makes it so much more fun and enjoyable. Before it was all about individual sport, and it didn’t matter about the team. He made us motivated to run for the team and to make the team better. He has brought out a lot of competitiveness in me and helped me become a better leader. He means a lot to me.”

Castille said having a runner like Bourque has allowed STM to build one of the best track programs in the state.

“Hannah is a very selfless person,” Castille said. “You have to have a kid like Hannah to build a program. She has been amazing for our program. She is a really strong and positive person, and they just follow in her foot steps. That’s Hannah Bourque.”

Bourque plans to major in kinesiology at LSU next year and plans to run track for the Tigers. She said her decision to continue running after high school will keep from having any regrets.

“I was already going to LSU, and I am really focused on academics,” Bourque said. “I just didn’t know if I was good enough to run and if I can handle a sport on my plate. I think I made the right decision because I wouldn’t want to regret it. I am enjoying running more now. It used to be a chore to me, but I get excited about it now.”