WALKER — Runnels’ Samuel Matthews made it through the race chute and sat down in the grass just a couple of feet away.
Most of the other top finishers reached down to shake hands and offer congratulations. Several checked to see if Matthews was OK.
After winning the small schools boys race at the Varsity Sports/Walker Shootout, Matthews was better than OK. He was pondering what had happened and what could have been after running a winning three-mile time of 16 minutes, 3.33 seconds on Saturday at Hutchinson Park.
“I really wanted to break 16 minutes,” Samuels said in between deep breaths. “I almost got it. The thing I want to do is use this race to get better for the other races coming up.”
Matthews was the only local winner on a day that provided one course record, one team champion and a few other surprises on the flat Hutchinson course.
St. Joseph’s Academy (large schools/Class 5A-4A girls), St. Paul’s (large schools boys), St. Patrick’s of Biloxi, Mississippi, (small schools/Class 3A and below girls) and E.D. White Catholic (small schools boys) were the team champions.
Matthews won an individual title, but just missed his goal time. It was the opposite scenario for Catholic High’s Jeffrey Kelley, who placed second to record-setter Eric Coston of St. Paul’s in the large schools boys race.
Kelley just missed cracking the 15-minute barrier by two seconds while winning the boys race at the Catholic Invitational held last weekend at hill-laden Highland Road Park.
Coston got the course record, winning in 14:39.04 to break the previous course mark of former Runnels and current University of Louisiana at Lafayette runner Matthew Rice. Kelley got what he wanted, finishing second in 14:50.26.
“I really wanted to break 15 today,” Kelley said. “I think I went through the first mile at 4:55, which was a little slower than some meets so I was a little worried. But I picked it up after that.
“I think a lot of people were excited about running on a flat course to gauge where they are physically. Sometimes it’s a little strange for me to run a flat course because I have a hard time getting a feel for it. I’m used to the hills.”
Another surprise was hidden in the large schools boys team totals. St. Paul’s won with 60 points. Class 2A Episcopal opted to compete in the large schools race and tallied 78 to finish ahead of Catholic (92).
Course record-holder Gabrielle Jennings of First Baptist Christian (small schools) and Mandeville’s Olivia Murphy (large schools) were the girls champions. Jennings, who has been slowed by a back injury, finished about 15 seconds off her course record but was pleased with a winning time of 17:37.77.
Murphy took the early lead and won in 17:40.30, nearly 40 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Gabbi Chauvin of St. Joseph’s Academy. Chauvin edged teammate Annie Hill by two seconds. The duo helped the Redstickers run by Mandeville for the third straight Saturday. SJA finished with the low total of 49 points. Mandeville was next at 94.