NATCHITOCHES — Mandeville High School and Lusher Charter made a splash while winning girls state titles to help close out the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Cross Country meet.
But it was performance of Jesuit that provided the best example of what high school cross country can be about.
The Blue Jays didn’t have a runner in the top 10 for the second straight year. And they won their second consecutive Class 5A boys title Wednesday at Northwestern State University.
“It takes a choice by everybody,” Jesuit’s Carolos Zervigon said. “I don’t think circumstances make you a winner. (Wednesday) all of us chose to win, and that was the secret. We didn’t want to lose.”
Jesuit’s victory was notable on a day when John Curtis’ Devyn Keith concluded his career by winning a third straight individual title — his first in 5A. At one point during the race, the top four teams were separated by just 10 points.
The Blue Jays finished with 106 points, just ahead of Curtis at 118, winner of the past two 3A titles. Catholic High was third at 133. Reed Meric was 11th and Zervigon placed 12th to lead the Blue Jays.
Lusher won its first girls title in cross country in Class 3A to open the day of races on a mud-laden course that was soaked by rain Tuesday. Mandeville gave coach Gerald Singer his first girls cross country title in 5A.
Keith, who won the 5A race with a three-mile time of 16 minutes, 8.82 seconds was part of a parade of individual champions.
“The beginning of our season was not the best for any of us,” Curtis’ Keith, a recent Tulane signee, said. “We didn’t lose track of what we were doing, but we were possibly lethargic. I feel like (Wednesday) we put together all the scattered pieces of our season and got to where we should be.”
Mandeville’s Olivia Murphy (18:36.18) took top honors in the 5A girls race and was one of four Skippers to finish in the top 10.
Mary Nushloch won the 3A girls individual title in 19:54.72. There were other notable individual success stories. St. Michael the Archangel swept the 4A team titles, but Vandebilt Catholic’s Alexa Breaux and Assumption’s Jacob Daigle also were individual champions.
Breaux won her fourth straight individual title in 20:08.31 to help the Terriers place second. Daigle won his second individual title in 17:00.61 for the second-place Mustangs. Individual runner-up Stephen Boudreaux led E.D. White to the 3A boys title.
The day started with the 3A girls race. Nushloch and Madeline Kling of Sacred Heart were the top two finishers as the Cardinals placed three runners in the top 10, but couldn’t edge out Lusher, which placed four in the top 10 led by eighth-grader Carolyn McGinnis, who finished third. Lusher tallied 30 points, compared to 41 for Sacred Heart.
“We’re a relatively new school, and this is our first title, so it’s obviously a huge deal,” Lusher coach Dawson McCall said. “Honestly we’ve been talking about this race since I took over as coach three years ago. We were third last year. We knew the potential was there.”
The potential has always been there for Mandeville. The Skippers and defending champion St. Joseph’s Academy traded off the top ranking over the past two years. Both teams had their share of injuries and illnesses along the way.
But Murphy won her first individual title and teammate Claire Crosby was second. Ally McCulley (fourth) and Chelsey Jones (ninth) gave the Skippers the inside track on the title. Mandeville finished with 47 points, just ahead of SJA at 59. Dominican was third at 110 and had Emily Doyle finish seventh.
“They did a good job but the course took it’s toll,” Mandeville’s Singer said. “A lot of good runners were dropping out.
“Our fifth girl, Ann Marie Young, barely made it. She fell over the finish line and she’s a big reason why we won. I’ve been the head coach since 2002 and this is my first one (title). This is awesome.”
Murphy echoed some of the same sentiments.
“I’m most happy about my team winning,” Murphy said. “This season we really wanted it bad. We all ran for our team and not just ourselves.”
Sacred Heart’s Nushloch hadn’t cracked the top 10 before this year and spent much of the offseason preparing mentally. She noted, “This means a lot … it means all the work I did during the summer paid off.”
Jesuit coach Rudolph Horvath paid tribute to his team by acknowledging what some would consider to be a weakness.
“We don’t have any superstars,” Horvath said. “That’s the real truth about our team. We just have a bunch of hard-working guys.”