WALKER — People who know high school cross country in south Louisiana, know all St. Paul’s Eric Coston and First Baptist’s Gabrielle Jennings.
The duo added to their list of accomplishments at the Varsity Sports/Walker Shootout on Saturday. But only one took down a course record.
It was Coston. The junior won the three-mile boys race in 14 minutes, 39.04 seconds in the large schools (Class 5A-4A) race at Hutchinson Park.
“I knew it would be a fast race and I wanted to come out and run good,” Coston said. “It’s not my best time, but any time I get close to it I’m pleased. I wanted to go out fast to make sure I didn’t get boxed in by anybody. And I kept pushing until the end.”
Jennings finished about 15 seconds off her course record but posted the top girls three-mile time by winning the small schools (Class 3A and below) race in 17:37.77.
“I wanted to go under 17:35, but I got close,” said Jennings, who has been hampered by a back injury. “It was really windy and the dust on the course was a factor, too. But I’m fairly happy, especially since I’m coming back from a back injury.”
Mandeville’s Olivia Murphy (large schools girls) and Samuel Matthews of Runnels (small schools boys) were the other individual champions.
St. Joseph’s Academy (large schools girls), St. Paul’s (large schools boys), St. Patrick’s of Biloxi, Mississippi, and E.D. White Catholic (small schools boys) were the team champions.
Runners hoped to run a series of fast times on the flat Hutchinson course following two weekends of extremely fast times on Baton Rouge’s hill-laden Highland Road Park course.
Coston was the only boys runner to crack the 15-minute barrier. Though he broke the previous record set by former Runnels and current Louisiana-Lafayette runner Matthew Rice, Coston’s time was still about five seconds off his personal best.
Like Jennings and Coston, Murphy went out fast and didn’t look back. She was the Skippers’ top runner for the second straight weekend. Another top MHS runner, Claire Crosby, is still sidelined by illness.
“I knew if I slowed down, people were going to pull ahead of me,” Murphy said. “I went out fast, maybe 5:35 in the first mile, and tried to hold it from there.”
Murphy was the only girl under 18 minutes, finishing in 17:40.30. Matthews of Runnels won the small schools boys race in 16:03.33.