PONCHATOULA — There was a faint cheer when Michaela Mitchell crossed the finish line in second place for St. Joseph’s Academy in the final event, the 4x400-meter relay.
Soon it was a loud cheer of elation. That second place to rival Baton Rouge High, coupled with a fourth-place finish by Zachary were just enough to give the Redstickers the girls team title by the slimmest of margins at the Class 5A, Region 2 track meet Thursday at Ponchatoula High.
“What a meet,” SJA coach Charlie Daigle said. “I can’t say enough about these girls. This is the first time in the last six or seven years we’ve been able to compete at or near our personal best, and we knew we had a chance.
“This is like the SEC (Southeastern Conference) of high school girls track. Winning this means something.”
The Redstickers tallied 88 points, just one point ahead of Zachary at 87. Slidell was third with 72 at the held Thursday.
The fabulous finish was a contrast to the boys division. Catholic High rolled up 198 points to outdistance St. Paul’s (69) and Fontainebleau (40). The top three finishers in each event advance to the 5A portion of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Outdoor Track & Field meet on May 9 at LSU.
“We came in hoping we could qualify 15 spots for state, and we’ve got over 20,” Catholic coach Pete Boudreaux said. “Your goal is to get in that top three. We ran a lot of top times and marks or were close to them. … It was a really good meet.”
Ponchatoula’s Airianna Hamilton was the Outstanding Field Performer for the girls, while Zachary’s Janie O’Connor was the Outstanding Track Performer. Hamilton placed in the top three in three jumps, winning the long jump in 16 feet, 8½ inches. O’Connor won the 100 meters (11.84 seconds) and 400 (55.90) and was second in the 200.
Catholic’s Nigel Despinasse and Jace Attuso shared Outstanding Field honors. Catholic sprinter Sethan Hollier was the Outstanding Track Performer. Despinasse won the shot put and discus and had a personal best of 57-10¾ in the shot put. Attuso won the long and triple jumps. Hollier won both short sprints, posting an impressive 21.93 time in the 200.
O’Connor was part of a key race before the 4x400 relay. Slidell’s 4-foot-10 Jessica Harris exploded out of the blocks and held off the taller O’Connor in a photo finish. Both were clocked in 24.47 seconds but Harris won by six hundreths of a second.
St. Joseph’s got a major momentum boost in the 300 hurdles. Marguerite Poche won in 45.93 seconds and teammate Chelsea Rose Bagnerise was fourth.
“It was our mindset,” Poche said. “We came in wanting to win ,and we knew every point would count.”
Catholic won all but one field event. Eric Coston was a double winner in the distance events.
Coston’s marks were notable, including a time of 9 minutes. 26.84 seconds in the 3,200.