Perfect conditions yield record times at St. Joseph’s cross country meet _lowres

Advocate file photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- St. Joseph Academy's Annie Hill competes in an October cross country meet.

Moving the second day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Cross Country meet is supposed to give severe storms the chance to clear.

Finding a break in the weather could be the easy part for teams set to complete in Classes 5A to 3A at Northwestern State in Natchitoches on Wednesday.

Finding clarity within several races will be much tougher. A series of close individual and team competitions are expected once the action begins at 11 a.m. with the Class 3A girls race.

“I think Mandeville is the favorite,” St. Joseph’s Academy coach Mark Lahaye said. “They’ve got a group of seniors, and we’ll be running two freshmen and a sophomore. It all comes down to who runs the best race. How close can your runners stay to each other? We’ll find out.”

Mandeville also entered the Class 5A girls race as the favorite a year ago only to see SJA win its first state title since 2010. Both teams have had runners in and out of the lineup, but Claire Crosby and Olivia Murphy are set to lead Mandeville, while Annie Hill and Gabbi Chauvin lead SJA. Individual champion Sara Funderburk of Parkway also returns.

The 5A girls race won’t be the only one with intrigue. St. Paul’s and John Curtis are favorites going into the 5A boys race, a point framed by the projected showdown between the state’s top two runners, Devyn Keith of Curtis and SPHS’ Eric Coston.

“St. Paul’s has been out in front of most of us,” Catholic coach Pete Boudreaux said. “And then there’s Curtis, Jesuit, Brother Martin, ourselves and Parkway.

“The thing about our guys is they’re not afraid to go out and compete. None of these teams are, and that makes it fun.”

The possibility for high-profile finishes is there for Class 4A St. Michael the Archangel and 3A West Feliciana.

“Last year we had a chance,” West Feliciana boys coach Nick Smith said. “But this year I think we can really go after E.D. White. I think we can match up them. We need to be steady and consistent.”

Hunter Fudge leads a young Saints squad composed mainly of juniors and sophomores.

“I see both teams being in the mix for first or second place, depending on how things fall, and that’s exciting,” SMHS coach Neil Borel said. “It means a lot to have two teams in this position.”

Defending champion Assumption and 2014 runner-up Leesville are among the boys teams to watch. St. Thomas More, also a defending champion, is the girls favorite. Vandebilt Catholic and St. Scholatica are also contenders.

Borel sees Benton as another team to watch.

Alexander Landry and Rachel Pendleton lead the Warriors.