NATCHITOCHES - Strength in numbers took on new meaning on the final day of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Cross Country Championships.
Two boys teams, Class 2A Episcopal and 1A Ascension Catholic, won state titles, while two girls teams, 2A Episcopal and 1A Christian Life, posted runner-up finishes as the two-meet concluded Tuesday at Northwestern State University’s Walter Ledet Track Complex.
Zach Capello of Ascension Catholic (1A boys), Anna Katherine Devitt (1A girls) and Harry Wiggins (C boys) were individual champions, as competitors in Classes 2A to C were featured.
There were other notable numbers. It was Episcopal’s 16th straight 2A boys title. The Knights have won state titles in 25 of the past 27 years and have 28 cross country titles overall.
Christian Life’s Devitt won her fourth straight individual title and posted the fastest girls 3-mile time of the meet, winning in 18 minutes, 33.96 seconds (18:33.96). Ascension Catholic won its first team title and had its first individual champion.
“It’s definitely bittersweet, knowing this would be my last race at Northwestern,” Devitt, a senior, said. “I’ve been coming here since I was an eighth-grader. I’m excited and happy for my team.”
Episcopal had 37 points in the 2A boys competition, while St. Thomas Aquinas of Hammond (57) was second. Runnels (174) finished fifth.
“That was a lot of fun,” Episcopal coach Claney Duplechin said. “They ran the race the way we planned. Actually, they ran it better than planned. I can’t say enough about these guys.”
Lakeside’s Enrique Soto won in 15:41.25. Runner-up Christian Johnson (15:54.15) was one of four Episcopal runners in the top 10. The others were Bryan Stamey (fifth, 16:24.98), Ben Murrey (ninth, 17:09.74) and Wesley Brown (10th, 17:14.00). James McGaugh (11th, 17:21.08), who returned one week ago from an injury, also scored for the Knights.
University’s Hank Patrick finished sixth in 16:39.19. Scott Wheat (third, 16:13.30) and Corbett Ourso (seventh, 16:40.71) were the top finishers for STA.
Ascension Catholic won the 1A boys title with 36 points, just three points ahead of Metairie Park Country Day. Zach Capello won in 16:26.08.
“I felt like I was ready,” Zach Capello said. “Our coach (Capello’s dad, Rocky) tells us the first two miles are his race, and we run the way he wants. The last mile is us ? it’s all heart.”
ACHS also put four runners in the top 10 and all five of its scoring runners in the top 11. Jesse Hood (fifth, 17:27.92), Patrick Brou (ninth, 18:01.70), Trey Capello (10th, 18:22.58) and Lee Oubre (11th, 18:26.39) scored for the Bulldogs.
“That race was won in the last mile,” Rocky Capello said. “I thought we were in trouble at the 2-mile mark, but they (ACHS runners) really picked it up.”
Led by Devitt, the CLA girls scored 69 points to edge an area team, New Roads-based Catholic-Pointe Coupee (71), for second place. Country Day won with 52.
CHSPC’s Addie Burleigh (third, 20:13.97) was the next highest local finisher.
Leigh Allen (fourth, 20:30.21) and Breanna Elliott (sixth, 21:13.05) were also in the top 10 for CLA, which fielded a full team for the first time.
“When I came here, only three of these girls had ever run a race,” CLA coach Aaron Nasers said. “This is an awesome group. I’m so happy for them.”
Menard-Alexandria won the 2A girls title with 59 points, with Episcopal (70) in second. University (148) was sixth.
“Of all the finishes, this may have been the most improbable,” Episcopal coach Eddie Cole said. “The competition was so good. I didn’t know if we were sixth, fourth, or second. We talked about everybody running their best race, and they came through.”
Menard’s Mallory Robichaux (18:46.82) was the individual champion. Katie Keller (third, 19:52.84) and Ainsley Pittman (eighth, 20:43.00) led Episcopal. U-High’s Hayley Schwab (20:51.68) was 10th.
Family Christian’s Wiggins ran in only one race before Tuesday. That didn’t keep the FCA senior from winning the day’s first race for Class C boys. Wiggins posted a 3-mile time of 17 minutes, 30.88 seconds.
“Last year we got here late, and I was in the bathroom when the race started,” Wiggins said. “I was determined to make things different my senior year. I followed one guy for the first mile, and in the second mile I just took off.”
Elizabeth placed all five of its scoring runners in the top 10 and seven runners in the top 12 to win with 29 points. FCA was fifth 139.
Georgetown won the Class C girls with 44 points. First Baptist Christian’s Gabrielle Jennings won the individual title in 18:34.56.
In Class B, Midland (boys) and Anacoco (girls) won titles. Individual winner Michael Primeaux (16:50.49) led Midland, which finished with 36 points. Anacoco tallied 73 points to win the girls title. Sacred Heart-Grand Coteau’s Kathleen Boulet (19:38.67) won the individual title. Clarissa Smith, of Holden, (third, 20:59.69) was the top local girls finisher.