Perfect conditions yield record times at St. Joseph’s cross country meet _lowres

Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Ascension Catholic's Sophie Daigle finish in fourth place at the St. Joseph's Cross Country meet at Highland Road Park on Saturday morning.

Cross country is one of those sports that requires the kind of hard work few people understand.

Ascension Catholic’s Sophie Daigle not only gets the work thing, she thrives on it.

“I like to run, and I don’t mind putting in the time,” Daigle said. “I’m a junior this year, and I’d like to run in college. Because of that, I’m putting everything I can into it.”

Daigle is not one of the runners everyone knows about. Thanks to a breakout race at the St. Joseph’s Academy Invitational two weeks ago that may change.

Daigle placed fourth with a personal-best three-mile of 18 minutes, 25.09 seconds for the Highland Road Park course. She posted the highest finish by a runner from a Class 1A school.

Daigle has some specific goals in mind as the Bulldogs compete in the Walker Shootout Cross Country meet Saturday. Her goals mirror some lofty goals already in front of her.

“I told Sophie over the summer I thought she had a chance to be one of the top 10 composite (all-classes) runners in the state this year,” ACHS coach Rocky Capello said. “She probably thought I was crazy, but it’s all based on her work ethic.

“Sophie is the hardest worker I have on the team. She finishes every workout, which isn’t something everybody does. I’ve asked her to do more work, and she’s embraced that.”

When Capello says more, he’s not kidding. Daigle does nine miles on ACHS’ longer distance training days. The added distance is designed to make running the short distances go smoother.

Everything has gone pretty much as planned. With one notable exception. For much of her career, Daigle has teamed with Stephanie Breaux to give the Bulldogs a powerful one-two punch.

Both runners netted All-Metro honors last fall after leading Donaldsonville-based Ascension Catholic to the Class 1A state team title. Breaux, now a sophomore, won the individual title and Daigle placed third.

An injury sidelined Breaux for a couple of weeks, including the week of the SJA Invitational.

“I had no idea how I was going to run,” Daigle said. “It was always me and Stephanie out there together. When I run with Stephanie, I probably go out too fast at the start.

“In that meet I went out a little slower. I guess it was my pace. I knew there were so many good runners in the race, and I surprised myself.”

What happened was no surprise to Capello.

“Sophie ran a great race that day,” Capello said. “Not going out as fast was the right thing for her to do. She gradually picked it up and started passing runners.”

Breaux is scheduled to be back this week, which should put the Bulldogs at full strength for the Walker meet that will feature many of the top teams and individuals from south Louisiana. The Walker course’s flat surface should give runners the chance to run extremely fast times.

Daigle’s goal is a crack the 18-minute barrier. It’s ambitious, just like her training and her goals for the Bulldogs.

“I’d really like to get under 18 minutes,” Daigle said. “That would mean a lot to me and to us as a team. I’m anxious to see how we do as a team. Everybody is working harder this year. We’re finishing workouts and dropping time. I like that.”