NATCHITOCHES - Catholic High proved that it isn’t always the start that determines the winner.

The Bears trailed two teams, St. Paul’s-Covington and Brother Martin-New Orleans, at the 1-mile and 2-mile marks at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Cross Country Championships.

With individual champion Cole Stafford leading the way, Catholic finished strong to claim its third Class 5A boys state title in four years on Monday.

St. Michael the Archangel (4A girls) and West Feliciana (3A boys) were runner-up finishers from the metro Baton Rouge area on the first day of the two-day meet at Northwestern State’s Walter Ledet Track Complex.

The St. Michael boys (third, 4A), St. Joseph’s Academy girls (fourth, 5A) and West Feliciana girls (sixth, 3A) were other top metro finishers. Schools in Classes 2A and below compete Tuesday, starting at 10 a.m.

“It’s the old adage ? they stepped up on the right day,” Catholic coach Pete Boudreaux said. “State meets are crazy any way. I had no idea when they (runners) were finishing. I knew it was going to be close.”

The Bears had 61 points to edge Brother Martin (68) and St. Paul’s (73). A year ago, Catholic lost a similarly close race by three points to Jesuit-New Orleans. It is the 16th state title in cross country for CHS.

“I told them the race wasn’t going to be won in the first mile,” Boudreaux said. “There was a lot of humidity today, and that’s tough. I told them not to panic, and they didn’t.”

Stafford won in 15 minutes, 22.75 seconds. He passed Jesuit’s Neal Fitzpatrick (15:26.22) in the final 400 meters to pick up his first individual title.

“He (Fitzpatrick) was ahead of me,” Stafford said. “When it got down to the final stretch, my senioritis kicked in. I wanted to win it, so I took off.”

Joseph St. Cyr (sixth, 16:04.15) was also in the top 10 for Catholic. Hunter Baudier (14th), Brian Primeaux (15th) and Brennan McLean (25th) also scored for the Bears. Brother Martin and St. Paul’s each had three runners in the top 10.

One SPHS runner, Christian Bergeron, was primed to make a top 15 finish, but collapsed on the track because of the heat and ran, walked and crawled to a 39th-place finish. He was taken to a Natchitoches Regional Medical Center and is recovering.

St. Michael was the Class 4A girls runner-up to Benton despite not having a runner in the top 10. Jenna Anderson (12th) and Sarah Wilson (13th) paced the Warriors.

Hannah Bourque, of Lafayette’s St. Thomas More, was the 4A individual champion in 20:04.30. Benton, led by fourth-place finisher Katie McKay, tallied 59 points, while St. Michael had 91 to finish two points ahead of Cabrini-New Orleans.

“Benton caught us by surprise,” St. Michael coach Neil Borel said. “We hadn’t seen them all year. They were outstanding. I was proud of our girls. They ran hard and passed people at the end just like we wanted them to.”

The SMHS boys took third with 117 points behind St. Thomas More (77) and Archbishop Shaw-Marrero (60) in the 4A boys race.

Teurlings Catholic’s Trey Bonin won in 15:59.74. Billy Waltman (fifth) led Shaw, which placed two runners in the top 10. Hayden Palmer (21st), Ryan White (22nd) and Dominic Segura (23rd) led St. Michael.

Thibodaux’s E.D. White Catholic swept the boys and girls titles in Class 3A. The Cardinals finished with 42 points to win the boys division ahead of West Feliciana. The Saints squad made up of five sophomores and two juniors took second for the second straight year with 65 points.

“It’s been a great year,” WFHS coach Nick Smith said. “To have five sophomores and two juniors and get two in the top 10 and all five scorers in the top 20 is awesome.”

Buckeye’s Jacob Chicola won in 16:41.29. Parkview Baptist’s Troy Porter (second, 16:52.54) was the top local finisher. Michael Sullivan (fifth, 17:22.10) and Mason Lambert (eighth, 17:57.84) led WFHS.

Two local runners placed in the top 10 in the 3A girls race that opened the day. Baker’s Dynasty Williams was third (21:03.51), and Parkview Baptist’s Morgan Schuetz was seventh (21:28.19).

E.D. White won the girls title with 31 points, while Jewel Sumner of Tangipahoa was second at 66. West Feliciana (177) was sixth to lead metro finishers.

Loyola-Shreveport’s Kaitlin Tanner won in 20:22.65. Runner-up Olivia Coffman led EDW, which had four runners in the top 10.

The 5A girls battle between St. Joseph’s and Dominican-New Orleans featured the opposite scenario Catholic faced. Dominican led defending champion SJA by five points at the 2-mile mark.

Three of the Redstickers’ top four runners experienced problems with the heat and humidity in the final mile.

Dominican took advantage, placing its five scoring runners in the top 12, including four in the top 10. Dominican had 39 points, and Fontainebleau (113) was second. Mandeville (143) and St. Joseph’s (148) were next.

“Anything can happen in a race like this,” SJA coach Sam Young said. “Dominican ran very well. To have three of your top four have problems in a race like this ? the blame goes to the coach. They (SJA runners) ran so hard to get into position for the last mile. They didn’t have enough left. “

Fontainebleau’s Alexa Durham won in 18:42.23. Sarah Carr and Mia Meydrich were fourth and fifth, respectively, to lead Dominican. SJA’s Mary LaHaye (sixth, 19:27.19) was the only local runner in the top 10.