NATCHITOCHES —The one thing the Allstate Sugar Bowl/Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Cross Country meet always provides is possibilities.
Teams from the Metro New Orleans area covered most of them as the two-day meet concluded Tuesday at Northwestern State.
Class 3A champions John Curtis and Sacred Heart-New Orleans ran away from the competition in impressive fashion.
Jesuit won one of closest 5A boys competitions ever, edging rival Brother Martin. Mandeville’s tug-of-war with Baton Rouge’s St. Joseph’s Academy was the story of the year for the 5A girls. The Skippers placed second in the final race of the year. McGehee claimed its first runner-up finish since 2007 in the 3A girls meet.
Lafayette’s St. Thomas More girls and Assumption boys were the 4A champions.
“We talked about running a full three miles and finishing the race strong,” Jesuit coach Rudy Horvath said. “We were fortunate to catch a few guys at the end, and that made the difference.
“We knew (Brother Martin) had two in the front. We were still running with the bull’s-eye from the first race of the season, when we laid all our cards out there. We knew we had to hang on for one more meet, and we did it.”
What contrasted Jesuit’s effort to that of Sacred Heart and Curtis was the individual factor. While Curtis had an individual champion in Devyn Keith, and Megan Jackson won an individual title for Sacred Heart, Jesuit’s top runner was Eli Sisung, who placed 14th.
Patrick LaCour (19th), Carlos Zervigon (20th) and Michael Schwing (21st) put the Blue Jays in position to score 85 points to win the school’s first cross country title since 2010.
Parkway’s Hayden Kingfisher edged St. Paul’s Eric Coston by four seconds to win the individual title. Kingfisher won in 15 minutes, 35.77 seconds. Brother Martin’s Hayden Courrege’ and Chace Edwards were fourth and fifth.
The Crusaders finished with 98 points, ahead of Catholic-BR (102) and defending champion St. Paul’s (109). At one point it looked like the top four teams might be separated by as little as 11 points.
“We needed to run a perfect race today, and we came up just a little short,” Brother Martin coach Ryan Gallagher said. “We knew we weren’t the best team, but we knew we had a shot. And for two-thirds of the race, we were right there.”
Curtis, the top boys teams in all classifications all season, asserted its dominance by placing all five of its scoring runners in the top eight, led by Keith, who won in 15:58.06. The Patriots finished with 23 points as Zachery Barthel (third), Trey Stewart (fifth), Austin Brown (sixth) and Tyler Dugas (eighth) made the post-race awards ceremony look more like a Curtis team meeting. E.D. White was second at 68, and West Feliciana third at 117. It was Curtis’ second straight 3A title.
“We tell them despite being No. 1 all season, you have to remember that your success is predicated on whether you win a state title or not,” Curtis coach Chaz Chaiado said. “The ultimate goal for a high school athlete is to win a state championship, and we didn’t do that until today.”
Keith added: “It was definitely a team effort today. We’re going to celebrate our win, but it can’t deter us from moving on to our goals in track.”
Sacred Heart’s Jackson provided one of the more emotional moments, noting she had waited five years to stand at the top of the awards stand.
Having one of their top five runners unable to finish the race after getting spiked didn’t derail the Cardinals, who won their third state title in a row and eighth in nine years. Jackson won in 19:22.11 in the day’s first race. Sacred Heart-NO finished with 37 points, well ahead of McGehee (61) and Lusher Charter (86). Catherine Belle Paulk was second for the Cardinals, who had three runners in the top six. Laura Butcher was seventh to pace McGehee.
“It’s a surreal experience,” Jackson said. “I’ve been looking at this for five years, and finally (the individual title) is mine now.”
“We set out goals very high, and that’s why they’re called goals,” Sacred Heart coach Greg Caro said. “Our split between No. 1 and No. 6 (runners) was close all year, and we maintained that today.”
Mandeville led early in the 5A girls race and had Kylie Touchard (fifth) and Chelsey Jones (sixth) place in the top 10. St. Joseph’s finished with 45 points, 18 ahead of the Skippers’ 63. Mount Carmel was third. Sara Funderburk won the 5A race in 18:40.12, giving Bossier City’s Parkway the first sweep of 5A individual titles by one school.
“We’ve gone back and forth all year,” Mandeville coach Gerald Singer said. “You’ve got to give this one to St. Joseph’s. We did very well, but today, they won.”