Alicia Stamey prefers to talk about her team and the other runners she meets.
Cross country is much more than a social obligation for the 15-year-old Episcopal sophomore.
Stamey set a personal best of 18 minutes, 39 seconds while winning the three-mile girls varsity race at the St. Joseph’s Academy Invitational at Highland Road Park on Saturday.
It was her second individual victory at Highland and her third first place overall, results that put her among the Baton Rouge area’s elite runners. Stamey doesn’t focus on status or on place finishes.
“I didn’t set any specific goals this season,” Stamey said. “I don’t go into a race thinking I want to run a certain time. I just want to get better and do what I can to help my team.
“I don’t know what I’d do without the team. We train together every day and work together. We push each other.”
There are two factors that have undoubtedly played a part in Stamey’s emergence as a runner this fall.
First, she followed her older brother, Bryan, a former Episcopal runner, now competing as a freshman for LSU, into the sport.
“We went to Trinity (Episcopal), which was outside the Episcopal (attendance) zone,” Stamey said. “Bryan wasn’t eligible when he first came to Episcopal. He could practice, but he couldn’t compete. He started running road races and so I started running too and I liked it.”
An illness that has sidelined St. Joseph’s Academy sophomore Annie Hill for much of the season is the other factor that has helped bring Stamey in the spotlight.
Teammate Hayley Schwab’s ability to run comparable times to those Stamey runs doesn’t hurt either, said Episcopal coach Eddie Cole. Schwab finished fourth Saturday in 18:56.
“This year has been a different challenge for all the girls,” Cole said. “Annie is such a competitor. You never have to worry about who is going to come out and set the pace when she’s in the race.
“Not everybody is willing to be that person, and that has made it tougher. Alicia and Hayley do battle in practices and during the races. I think that’s helped both of them.”
Stamey, who attended a running camp with Hill in 2013, is looking forward to Hill’s anticipated return for Saturday’s Catholic High Invitational also at Highland.
One of the state’s other premier runners, Gabrielle Jennings of Slidell’s First Baptist Christian, also is entered, along with the team from defending Class 5A state champion Parkway High.
For Stamey, racing is as much about a progression as it is about competition. She started running for Cole and the Knights as a seventh-grader. While some coaches pile on yardage for young runners Cole does not, choosing instead to follow the progression approach of legendary Oregon coach Bob Bowerman.
“My goal is always for them to be better the next year than they were the previous year,” Cole esaidd. “So instead of giving them too much when they’re young we build them up gradually each year.
“We also do that during a season. It’s important to be at your best and be healthy at the end of the season. I feel like our best races and her best races are ahead of her this year.
“I’m very pleased because she’s running faster than I expected based on our training so far.”
When you enter the coaches office at Episcopal it’s hard not to notice the large number of state championship and runner-up trophies the Class 2A Knights have claimed. It might intimidate some runners, but not the soft-spoken Stamey.
“As a team we’d like to add to that,” Stamey said.