The Baton Rouge Metro Cross Country Meet has multiple meanings for the high school teams and individuals who compete.

It’s the final tune-up before the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Cross Country Meet in Natchitoches and is typically a showcase for the area’s top competitors.

Baton Rouge High’s Kennedy Smith and Episcopal’s Christian Johnson to put their unique imprints on the three-mile varsity races held Monday at BREC’s Highland Road Park.

“My strategy was to sprint out in the first 100 (meters), then take long strides from there, speed it up in every mile and then in the last 300 sprint it all,” Smith explained.

The plan worked to perfection for the BRHS freshman competing in just her second varsity race. Smith finished in 19 minutes, 18 seconds, more than a minute and a half better than her previous best. She finished just ahead of East Ascension’s Tayla Grieff (19:19).

Episcopal’s Johnson, a senior, wanted to make his final race at Highland memorable. He did just that by winning with a personal-best time of 15:11.

“That’s my lifetime PR … my best ever,” Johnson said. “This was my last race at Highland and I couldn’t be happier. I didn’t want to have any regrets.

“Coach (Claney Duplechin) always tells us the race starts after the first mile. So I started slow and then picked up the pace in the second mile.”

St. Joseph’s Academy finished with the low score of 28 to win the girls team title. Episcopal (58) and meet host St. Michael the Archangel (99) completed the top three in the 12-team competition. Andree Laville (19:30) and Laurie Lyon (19:39) placed third and fourth, respectively, to lead champion SJA.

Amber Ferguson, of Denham Springs, was fifth (19:41). A total of 144 runners completed the three-mile girls race. Elise Richard (seventh) and Sarah Leblanc (10th) also placed in the top team for the team-champion Redstickers.

Johnson set the pace for boys team champion Episcopal.

The Knights finished with 39 points, while Catholic was second at 48 with Ascension Catholic taking third at 106 in a 17-team field that included 248 runners.

Joe St. Cyr (15:32) placed second to lead Catholic with Ascension Catholic’s Zach Capello taking third (15:42).

After the race, the top three runners shared a laugh and discussed their battle in a fast-paced second mile during which the top three runners pulled away from the field.

The Knights put three other runners in the top 10 — Bryan Stamey (fourth, 16:03), Wesley Brown (seventh) and Ben Murrey (10th). Ascension Catholic’s Jesse Hood (16:11) was fifth.