Devyn Keith/John Curtis
Devyn Keith has won enough prep state championships that he has his pick of which one is his favorite.
When it comes to the three consecutive titles he has won in cross country, the one he earned last month in Natchitoches might have been the finest, he said.
“It may be my favorite — not because of what I did, but because of what we did as a team,” the senior star said of the John Curtis Patriots’ second-place team finish. “We got to bring home a 5A trophy, and that means a lot. Sometimes we get overshadowed by other sports … so it’s a real point of pride.”
Keith, a senior, is the major reason the Curtis cross country team is firmly planted in the public consciousness these days. He helped lead the Patriots to Class 3A titles in 2013 and 2014, and he led the effort that fell just short in this year’s Class 5A meet.
For his excellence, Keith is The New Orleans Advocate’s Most Outstanding Male Runner for 2015.
His time in this year’s state meet (16 minutes, 8.82 seconds) was far from his best, but it was enough to win on a muddy course through the Natchitoches hills. His best time of the season came in early October, when he set a personal best of 14:30.72 at the St. Joseph’s Invitational in Baton Rouge. The time shattered a 22-year-old Highland Park course record by nearly 22 seconds, and it set the tone for yet another successful season.
“Before this, I didn’t have goals in school or in anything, really,” he said. “Running gave me direction. I developed a mentality for checkpoints and deadlines.”
Keith, who will run for Tulane, said his short-term goals are to perform well in the indoor and outdoor track seasons. He was named the top performer in the 2014 state outdoor meet after winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter races. He also won the 800 and the 1,600 at the indoor meet as both a sophomore and a junior. He said he’d like to make Junior Nationals in both indoor and outdoor track this year, something he has done in the past. Long-term, he plans to study mechanical engineering at Tulane and hopes to continue running after college.
“I’m not sure of my own ability, really,” he said. “It’s a romantic idea to say I want to be an Olympian, but who knows? I won’t say that’s where I’ll be. In five years, I’ll probably just be finishing college or be just out of college. But I’ll still be running. At this point, it’s almost like a religion for me. It’s something you are, and it’s something you do every day.”
Eric Coston St. Paul’s Junior
ADAM WISE Fontainebleau Sophomore
Hayden CourregÉ Brother Martin Freshman
Antonio Imbornone St. Martin’s Senior
MICHAEL BROWN Newman Junior
Spencer Albright St. Paul’s Junior
Reed Meric Jesuit Junior
Carlos Zervigon Jesuit Senior
Connor Killian Rummel Senior
John Kling Jesuit Junior
Louie Uhalt Newman Senior
Gabrielle Jennings/First Baptist (Slidell)
Gabrielle Jennings remembers spending her fourth-grade year being a shy, quiet girl who didn’t seem to fit in with her peers.
She began running varsity cross country a year later, however, and she found her niche.
She hasn’t looked back.
“Running gave me a purpose,” she said. “It gave me a title. It’s been life-changing.”
Jennings, now a senior at First Baptist Christian School in Slidell, has won 38 state titles (and counting) in varsity athletics since she began competing at that level in fifth grade. Her latest victory came in the LHSAA State Cross Country Championship last month in Natchitoches. Jennings ran the 3-mile course in 18 minutes, 27.65 seconds — good enough for the Class C title and faster than any other female competitor in any division at the state meet.
For her continued excellence and her exploits during this cross country season, Jennings is The New Orleans Advocate’s Most Outstanding Runner for 2015.
The most recent victory in Natchitoches was her eighth consecutive cross country state title. Her overall championship haul makes her the most decorated prep athlete in state history.
The success didn’t come easily. Jennings has endured numerous injuries throughout her high school years but has emerged stronger after each. That determination has earned her fans throughout the national running community. She often is asked for autographs at meets, and poses for pictures after competitions across the U.S. She is most proud, however, of the chance to suggest a healthy lifestyle to young athletes.
“I had no idea I would be as successful as I’ve been,” Jennings said. “But it’s not only about me. I’m really happy to inspire others, too. I have God-given talent, but I had to work hard for it. It takes dedication.”
Jennings will finish her senior year by running indoor and outdoor track. She hopes to add to her championship haul before heading to Greenville, South Carolina, where she will attend Furman University. Jennings is expected to run cross country at Furman, as well as run the mile for the school’s track team. She also is considering steeplechase and has hopes of being an Olympian.
“The journey is sometimes better than the destination,” she said. “Each race is an experience. You learn something every time.”
Olivia Murphy Mandeville Senior
Claire Crosby Mandeville Senior
Mary Nusloch Sacred Heart Freshman
Ally McCulley Mandeville Junior
Emily Blanchard Hahnville Sophomore
Madeline Kling Sacred Heart Freshman
Haley Dean Dominican Junior
Emily Doyle Fontainebleau Sophomore
Chelsey Jones Mandeville Senior
Kathryn Fagan Country Day Junior
Isabella Hemb Mt. Carmel Senior