Episcopal holds some huge boys cross country records and has won a state title 28 of the past 30 years.
But it’s the things opponents often don’t know about that drive the Knights and coach Claney Duplechin going into the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Cross Country meet every year.
“Each group is different, and two things that set this group apart,” Duplechin said. “One is the fact that they work so hard. Their goal is to get better every day.
“And the other thing is the way they pull for each other. You have the juniors and seniors who pull for the middle school guys. They have a connection that’s special.”
The Knights seek an unprecedented 20th straight cross country in Class 2A when the LHSAA state meet begins Monday with competition for teams in Classes 2A to C. Races begin at 10 a.m. at Northwestern State in Natchitoches.
A key change was announced Sunday. The second day of the annual meet was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday by the LHSAA based on forecasts that predict severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes for Tuesday.
Once again the Knights are a major Monday story. Episcopal’s 31 titles ranks second nationally, and so does the current streak of 19. However, EHS isn’t the only team/individuals tracking record-setting performances Monday.
First Baptist Christian’s Gabrielle Jennings seeks an unprecedented eighth straight individual title in Class C. Jennings, who signed with Furman last week, has won 37 state titles between track and cross country.
Ascension Catholic looks to continue winning in Class 1A. ACHS has won four straight boys titles. The girls won the title two years ago and were the runners-up last season.
Episcopal placed four runners in the top 10 last year, and all of those runners return, including individual champion Kris Jackson. The squad has eight seniors, but only one, Alex Dunbar, is scheduled to run Monday.
The addition of three newcomers to the top seven, sophomores William Kennedy and Mark Frazier, along with junior Brandon Leggio, has been a pleasant surprise.
“Those guys came out of nowhere,” Duplechin said. “That’s impressive.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, Newman and another local school, Runnels, are among the challengers for Episcopal.
With Metro champion Alicia Stamey and Adele Broussard leading the way, the Episcopal girls figure to battle with Menard and St. Thomas Aquinas.
ACHS coach Rocky Capello said St. Martin’s is the 1A boys favorite. The ACHS girls, led by Sophie Daigle and Stephanie Breaux, should again square off against Catholic-Pointe Coupee.
“It will be tough for the boys to get a fifth in a row,” Capello said. “They’re running as well as they have all year. The girls have been lights out pretty much all year, and we’re anxious to see how both groups do.”
LHSAA Assistant Executive Director Keith Alexander said safety was the primary reason why the 3A to 5A meet was pushed back one day to Wednesday.
“I’ve contacted several weather people, including the National Weather Service and Louisiana forecasters, and they’re telling me there’s a chance for heavy thunderstorms and tornado-like activity on Tuesday,” Alexander said. “If it was just rain, it would be one thing, but in this case, we’re going to err on the side of safety.
“Now we understand this could cause problems for 3A teams with runners who also swim. Their portion of the state swim meet starts Wednesday. Knowing that, we still felt like this was the right decision to make.”