NATCHITOCHES — Picking apart the most recent effort is often a good way to scrutinize a championship program. Unless that program is the Episcopal boys cross country team.
The Knights extended their streak of consecutive LHSAA titles to 22 with an effort for the ages, placing five runners in the top 10 en route to a title in Class 2A, highlighting the first day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Cross Country meet.
“It’s nice to be successful on an individual level, but it’s a lot more worthwhile and meaningful to win the state championship with the team,” Episcopal’s Graham Frazier said. “That lasts forever. It’s something you can always talk about.”
The Knights gave people plenty to talk about at Northwestern State’s Walter P. Ledet Track on Monday. Episcopal was just two place finishes away from a perfect score. Episcopal finished with 21 points, ahead of Hammond’s St. Thomas Aquinas with 59 points. Episcopal has won 31 titles in 33 years. The consecutive wins and total titles rank second nationally. The two-day meet concludes Tuesday with competition for teams in Class 5A to 3A starting at 11 a.m.
Frazier won his second straight individual title by sprinting past teammate Michael Lee on the final curve to post a three-mile time of 15 minutes, 42.12 seconds. Lee (15:44.43) was close behind and a third Knight, Kenny Schafer, was third (15:53.29). James Christian was seventh and Austin Broussard eighth for Episcopal on a day that was about streaks and second-place finishes.
Episcopal School of Acadiana won its fourth straight boys title and third girls title in a row with another local team, Runnels, in pursuit in Class B. The Raiders finished just one point behind ESA, 39-40, in the girls race. The Falcons won the boys title by a 32-74 margin.
St. Thomas Aquinas was the runner-up in both 2A races, finishing behind Alexandria’s Menard in the girls race. There was a little history made in Class C with Jehovah-Jireh finishing second in the boys competition, garnering its first cross country team trophy.
“I knew it was going to be close,” Runnels coach Julie Fink said of the girls race. “I think I started biting my nails yesterday. This is not a loss. … This is affirmation for a program that has been in 2A for most of its 14 years. I’ve had a lot of these kids since they were sixth-graders. I’m so proud.”
Jehovah-Jireh coach Latona Carter echoed that sentiment. Geogetown edged the Warriors 57-61 to net the C title. Carnell Alexander Jr. (fifth) and Rodney Carter (10th) led JCA.
“This is huge … We just made history at Jehovah-Jireh,” Carter said. “We have a young team, so we plan on coming back with the same goal, to win state. I have two basketball players and three other athletes. We worked hard and made this happen.”
ESA’s Samantha Withers defended her Class B title, winning in 19:29.50. Menard’s Claire Vaughn had the fastest girls time of 18:49.70.
Pride was the key emotion for Episcopal coach Claney Duplechin, too.
“I think they ran fantastic,” Duplechin said. “The streak is not a goal, but 22 is nice.”
St. Martin's Episcopal swept the 1A team titles. Christ Episcopal was the C girls winner. The Menard girls won their fourth title in five years and second in a row.
Samuel Matthews led the Runnels boys with a second-place finish. Eighth-grader Sydney Worsham (fifth) paced the Raiders girls team. Episcopal's Adele Broussard (third) was the top local finisher in the 2A girls race. Dunham's John Walker McDonald was sixth in the 2A boys race.
Two Ascension Catholic runners, Thomas Daigle (sixth) and Haley Dupre (ninth), were other top 1A finishers. ACHS was third among boys teams.