Richard Bouckaert quickly is proving himself to be one of the best runners in southeast Louisiana.
He took another step in that direction Sunday when he won the 108th annual Jackson Day Race, the oldest race in New Orleans and one of the most storied road-racing competitions in the Deep South.
Bouckaert, a 30-year-old attorney who lives in Lakeview, led a field of 800-plus runners on a course that began at Old Spanish Fort near the confluence of Lake Pontchartrain and Bayou St. John and ended on Chartres Street in the French Quarter. He finished the 9-kilometer race in a swift pace of 28 minutes, 59 seconds.
Brock Moreaux, a 23-year-old Lafayette resident, finished second in 29:16. Drew Haro, a Brother Martin graduate and former LSU runner, was third in 29:36.
Ian Carr, another local racing stalwart, took an early lead. The 24-year-old set the pace for the first two miles along Wisner Boulevard until the leaders reached the New Orleans Museum of Art. Then Bouckaert made a move to the front of a five-person pack, a lead he would not relinquish.
Bouckaert crossed the 2-mile mark just behind Haro, who was at a 10:17 clip at the time. By the 3-mile mark, Bouckaert had a 30-yard advantage that he maintained until the end.
“I felt OK today, but I just had to grind it out at some points,” Bouckaert said. “The thing was, and it happens like that sometimes, is I had the extra gear today.”
On the women’s side, the young duo of Houston’s Kaytlynn and Heather Welsch paced the field. Kaytlynn, 14, won with a time of 35:31. Her sister Heather, 12, was second in 36:23.
“This was a good race,” Kaytylnn said. “The weather (in the mid-60s at race start) was perfect for me. I’ll be back.”