A season that began 10 weeks ago all comes down to two days for local teams eyeing the ultimate prize.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Cross Country Meet begins on Monday in Natchitoches with teams in Classes 5A to 3A set to compete.
Action at Northwestern State’s Walter Ledet Track Complex concludes Tuesday with races for Classes 2A to C. Races begin at 11 a.m. Monday and 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
“Cross country is a simple sport when you get right down to it,” St. Joseph’s Academy coach Sam Young said. “The way to keep your point total down is by passing as many people as you can.
“I think our top runners match up pretty well with the top three from Dominican, and I believe our depth is good. I’ve told my girls that if they see someone from Dominican, Mandeville or Fontainebleau, they need to try and pass them.”
The Redstickers seek their third Class 5A girls title in four years on Monday and should again battle Dominican-New Orleans, the team they edged by 10 points a year ago.
SJA and Episcopal were the only Baton Rouge schools to win titles in 2010. The Episcopal boys and girls swept the 2A titles for the second straight year. Three other boys teams, Catholic High (5A), West Feliciana (3A) and Ascension Catholic (1A), were runners-up. Both St. Michael the Archangel teams were third in 4A.
A new year brings new challenges. Catholic got edged by Jesuit-New Orleans by three points in last year’s title chase. Top-ranked St. Paul’s-Covington and Brother Martin-New Orleans are among the teams the Bears will face.
Episcopal has won the last 15 Class 2A boys titles but figures to face its stiffest challenge in years from Hammond’s St. Thomas Aquinas. Meanwhile, Menard-Alexandria, tops a deep 2A girls field that includes five to six teams in contention for the top two spots.
“I think its going to be a great meet,” Catholic coach Pete Boudreaux said. “We’ve run against St. Paul’s, Brother Martin and Jesuit all year. We’ve gotten a lot better during the season, and they’ve all gotten better, too. Some of the north Louisiana teams will factor in. I’m anxious to see how our guys do.”
Two of the top classifications will have new champions because of classification changes. Both 2010 3A champions, Sacred Heart-New Orleans girls (3A to 2A) and Holy Cross-New Orleans boys (3A to 4A), have moved on. So has last year’s 4A boys champion Parkway (4A to 5A).
“We’re a team that really has gotten better through the year,” St. Michael coach Neil Borel said. “Our boys started with a group of above-average guys without a lot of experience, and they’ve improved. Our girls group is young, and they continue to improve.
“We’ve seen St. Thomas More. But we’re a little bit of a disadvantage because we haven’t seen Archbishop Shaw, Holy Cross or Cabrini that much. We can win with our one through seven runners giving us the best they have,”
The Episcopal girls are part of a group of 2A contenders bunched behind Menard. The list also includes Sacred Heart-NO, Newman-New Orleans, Louise McGehee-New Orleans and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Episcopal’s boys squad has had its share of ups and downs and a few injuries. EHS boys coach Claney Duplechin sees both the challenge and opportunity ahead.
“This should the closest 2A race in years,” Duplechin said. “St. Thomas Aquinas has shown what a strong team they are one through seven. It’s going to take our top effort to stay with them.”
Catholic High’s Cole Stafford and Christian Life Academy’s Anna Katherine Devitt are the top local individuals.
Stafford has held off a series of challengers during the year. Devitt, who has won the last three 1A titles.
Parkview Baptist’s Morgan Schuetz was second in the 3A girls race a year ago. Kassidy Noto and Andree Laville, who placed second and third, respectively, at last week’s Metro Meet, helps lead St. Joseph’s Academy.
Episcopal’s Christian Johnson was the runner-up to Stafford in the boys Metro race. Catholic’s Joseph St. Cyr and Ascension Catholic’s Zach Capello were next.