NATCHITOCHES — Nick Smith was prepared for a close race. Afterward, the West Feliciana coach agreed to have a close shave.
The Class 3A Saints shared top billing with three other local champions — Catholic High (5A boys), St. Joseph’s Academy (5A girls) and St. Michael the Archangel (4A girls) on Tuesday, the final day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Cross Country meet held at Northwestern State.
“We did what we had to do,” Smith said. “We had some guys step up and run great today. I’m happy that Erath is with us today. It is two small-town country schools. When you talk about who you are is a community, that is who we are.”
The Saints placed four runners in the top 10 to win their first LHSAA title since 1999 with 52 points, just ahead of Erath (59).
Smith made good on his promise, allowing the runners to shave his beard.
Catholic won its first title since 2011 in another close Class 5A race. It is the 17th cross country title under legendary coach Pete Boudreaux. The Bears placed two runners in the top 10 and, and, most importantly, got their top five to finish in the top 25 to post a low score of 77, ahead of Airline (105) and Brother Martin (125).
“We ran a dynamite race,” Boudreaux said. “We didn’t want them to panic in the first mile, but they also knew they had to keep moving after that. We knew the only shot we had was to get everyone packed in tight. That was the difference in the race.”
Youth served both the St. Joseph’s and St. Michael girls well. Each school ran four freshmen. Lauren Hendry won the individual title with a three-mile time of 18 minutes, 19.73 seconds as SJA won its second straight 5A title with the day’s low score of 35 points. Mandeville with 85 was second.
Hendry ran past Mandeville’s Carlin Beal as they entered the Walter Ledet Track for the final stretch. Hendry was one of two area individual champions. University High’s Jack Moran, who passed West Feliciana’s Chandler Sullivan on the final curve, finished his three-mile race in 16:36.97.
“Being a state champion feels great,” Hendry said. “This is something I’ve been focusing on since track season. This team is different than any other team I’ve been on before. We’ve all been on the same page since we started our summer training.”
St. Michael was led by a freshman, third-place finisher Hailey Humphries. The Warriors tallied 50 points to outdistance E.D. White (78) and 2016 champion Vandebilt Catholic (88). It is SMHS’ 10th title in girls cross country.
“It took us most of the season to get the newbies, freshmen and two newcomers, to run at this level,” St. Michael coach Neil Borel said. “It was a battle all year with Vandebilt Catholic. They made us go faster. We had a great race plan and the girls ran it perfectly.”
U-High’s Moran, admitted he was nervous.
“I honestly thought I was going to throw up, but I got (Sullivan) on the turn," Moran said. "This means everything. I’ve been running since fifth grade and I used to be the slow guy on the team. I just wanted it.”
Hendry’s recorded the top girls three-mile time. Fontainebleau’s Adam Wise had the fastest boys time of 15:20.56 and was the other 5A winner. Carencro's Key Alfred won the 4A boys race in for the second straight year in 15:46.30. Collin Hedges was seventh to pace Catholic. The St. Michael boys in 4A and U-High girls in 3A claimed second-place finishes.
While Boudreaux said his head was “in the clouds afterward, SJA coach Mark LaHaye said, “I’m kind of without words right now. Especially with the way our four, five, six and seventh girls placed. It was unbelievable.”