The finality of one of the most prolific runners in girls’ cross country grew larger as she moved within a week of the last meet of her career.
First Baptist’s Gabrielle Jennings won the individual title in the Northshore Metro Cross Country Championships at St. Thomas Aquinas in Hammond and John Curtis’ Devyn Keith was the boys champion.
On Wednesday, Jennings will sign a scholarship with Furman in Greenville, South Carolina, while Keith is casting his lot with Tulane, and teammate Austin Brown signs with Texas Southern.
Mandeville placed four in the top 10, including runner up Olivia Murphy, capturing the girls team title with 30 points, followed by Sacred Heart (39), St. Thomas Aquinas (79), and Dominican (133).
John Curtis was the boys champion with 31 points, with three runners — Keith, Brown and Zachary Barthel — among the top 10 individual finishers.
Next week, Jennings, who began competing at the varsity level for the Class C school in fifth grade, enters her eighth and final varsity state meet, never having lost at the state meet on the campus of Northwestern State.
The weather has never been the same in each of the previous seven state meets and the wet and soggy conditions of the three-mile course at St. Thomas Aquinas may have been an advantage.
“Somehow the small schools always wind up running in bad weather, so this was a good way to be prepared for what we might see,” Jennings said. “I’ve been running for eight years, so I’m ready to move on, but this was also my childhood, and it’s special to me that my dad has been my coach.”
The Class 5A state meet next week also marks Keith’s swan song, and he also is staying focused on making the most of the final days of his varsity cross country career.
“I knew I was going to have to go out hard regardless of how the course was,” Keith said. “I have to focus on state and do my best.”
Northshore Metro Championships
At St. Thomas Aquinas-Hammond
Team scores: 1. John Curtis 31. 2. Mandeville 62. 3. Fontainebleau 75. 4. St. Thomas Aquinas 97. 5. Ponchatoula 117. 6. Slidell 154. 7. Northshore 219. 8. Northlake Christian 250. 9. Salmen 272. 10. Patrick Taylor 291.
Top 10 individuals: 1. Devyn Keith, John Curtis, 15:11.19. 2. Adam Wise, Fontainebleau, 15:36.46. 3. Austin Ballow, Jewel Sumner, 15:43.78. 4. Spencer Hollander, Mandeville, 15:49.64. 5. Austin Brown, John Curtis, 15:57.60. 6. Zachary Barthel, John Curtis, 16:02.76. 7. Charles Murphy, Mandeville, 16:17.52. 8. Noah Elder, Mandeville, 16:18.96. 9. Austin James, Jewel Sumner, 16:20.41. 10. Brandon Gilbert, Mandeville, 16:20.68
Team scores: 1. Mandeville 30. 2. Sacred Heart 39. 3. St. Thomas Aquinas 79. 4. Dominican 133. 5. Fontainebleau 134. 6. St. Scholastica 172. 7. John Curtis 183. 8. Ponchatoula 208. 9. Slidell 268. 10. Northshore 312.
Top 10 individuals: 1. Gabrielle Jennings, First Baptist, 17:48.06. 2. Olivia Murphy, Mandeville, 17:58.30. 3. Mary Nusloch, Sacred Heart, 19:01.63. 4. Chelsey Jones, Mandeville, 19:09.32. 5. Ally McCulley, Mandeville, 19:14.41. 6. Madeline Kling, Sacred Heart, 19:24.30. 7. Meghan Becerra, St. Thomas Aquinas, 19:36.85. 8. Alivia Johnson, Fontainebleau, 19:47.45. 9. Ann Marie Young, Mandeville, 19:58.31. 10. Catherine Belle Paulk, Sacred Heart, 20:02.98