The 12th annual Varsity Sports/Walker Shootout cross country meet is taking things to a different level in more ways than one.
What has traditionally been a one-day meet has been expanded to two days, starting Friday with junior high competition and concluding Saturday with varsity competition divided in large and small schools divisions at Hutchinson Park.
“It looks like we’re going to have a great meet,” Walker coach Will Silk said. “I just cut the grass to an inch and a half and the course is in great shape. The weather should be great.
“We didn’t want to turn teams away. Parking was becoming the biggest problem for us. By doing it over two days it gives us a chance to get everybody in there to compete.”
A total of 1,400 competitors and 68 schools have registered for the meet that starts with a two-mile girls junior high race at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by a two-mile junior high boys race at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday’s races begin at 9 a.m. with the three-mile Class 5A/4A girls varsity race. The 5A/4A boys race is at 9:40 a.m. The Class 3A and below races for girls and boys will follow at 10:15 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively.
Also part of the weekend schedule are the final two Capital City Swim League meets set for Saturday at the Crawfish Aquatics pool.
Silk said several teams in 3A and below are opting to compete in the large schools divisions, including the top-ranked John Curtis boys of 3A. Curtis and its top runner, Devyn Keith, were the top finishers at last weekend’s Catholic High Invitational.
Other boys teams to watch include Jesuit, Catholic High, Episcopal, St. Paul’s and Shaw. St. Paul’s Eric Coston and Ascension Catholic’s Zach Capello are among the other boys competitors to note.
Gabrielle Jennings of Slidell’s First Baptist Christian helps lead the list of girls competitors. Jennings also was an individual champion at the Catholic meet last week. St. Joseph’s Academy’s Annie Hill also is expected to return from an illness to compete. Mandeville’s Claire Crosby and Episcopal’s Alicia Stamey are among the other girls runners to watch.
Top-ranked Mandeville and No. 2 SJA will square off in the team competition for the third straight week. The teams have split the previous two meets. Episcopal, Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas and Mount Carmel are among the other teams to watch.
Defending Division I state champions Catholic High and St. Joseph’s Academy compete in Saturday’s first meet that starts at 8 a.m. It is the first league meet in a month the for the two traditional powers. The second meet set for 11:45 a.m. includes a cross-section of teams led by The Dunham School.
St. Joseph’s Academy’s Mary Claire Beaver (50-yard freestyle, 100 butterfly) and Clayton Black (100 and 500 freestyles) each have two top entry marks. Catholic is led by Brady Grenfell (50 freestyle, 100 butterfly) and Colin Bone (500 freestyle, 100 backstroke), who also have multiple top entry times.
The Dunham duo of Olivia Huffman and Kirkland Mawae are among the swimmers to watch in the second meet along with Runnels’ Jordyn Miller, Christian Life’s Anna Morris and Central’s Matthew Arnold.
Huffman (50 freestyle, 100 backstroke), Morris (200 individual medley) and Miller (100 butterfly, 500 freestyle) are the girls two top entry marks. Mawae (100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke) and Central’s Arnold (100 backstroke, 200 freestyle) lead the list of boys to watch.