High school cross country begins its midseason cycle in the Baton Rouge area with the St. Joseph’s Academy Invitational set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Highland Road Park.

Thanks to a total of 74 schools and approximately 1,800 runners, the meet is comparable in size to next week’s Catholic High Invitational. But it’s the unique midseason challenges that figure to set this week apart.

Host SJA will compete again this week without standout Annie Hill, who is recovering from an illness. Mandeville, the other top 5A girls team, figures to provide a huge challenge but also may not be at full strength.

Then there’s the challenge of other teams, including 1A Ascension Catholic, which won the high school girls competition at McNeese State last weekend.

“We’ve got a lot of teams and a lot of runners,” SJA coach Mark LaHaye said. “I think Mandeville is definitely the team to beat this week. And you got some other teams that also should do well.

“BREC has taken care of cutting the grass one more time, so everything should be ready.”

The SJA meet helps highlight a Saturday that also includes two Capital City Swim League meets at the Crawfish Aquatics pool.

Action at Highland begins with two two-mile junior high races. The three-mile girls varsity race is set for 9:30 a.m., followed by the three-mile boys varsity race at 10 a.m.

Mandeville’s Olivia Murphy helps lead the list of girls runners. Annalane Lee, who splits time between the Redstickers’ swimming and cross country teams, helps lead SJA.

Other runners to note include Ascension Catholic’s Stephanie Breaux, Baton Rouge High’s Kennedy Smith, Denham Springs’ Amber Ferguson, Episcopal’s Haylay Schwab and Alicia Stamey and Mount Carmel Academy’s Isabella Hemb. Ascension Catholic’s Zach Capello, Catholic’s Pierce Hill and University’s Hank Patrick are among the boys runners to watch.

Swimming

Dutchtown High and Parkview Baptist help lead the group of eight teams set to compete in the first CCSL meet that begins at 8 a.m. Saturday. Other schools entered include St. Michael, University, Baton Rouge, Brusly, Central and Walker.

PBS’ Hannah Dickie (50- and 100-yard freestyle) and Jolee Liles (500 freestyle, 100 backstroke) have multiple top entries going into the girls competition. Brusly’s Nicholas Lee (100 butterfly, 100 freestyle) and Walker’s Shane Pendarvis (200 freestyle, 100 backstroke) are the boys competitors with multiple top marks.

The second CCSL meet set for 11:45 a.m. features traditional powers Episcopal and Lutcher. St. Amant, Denham Springs and East Ascension are other teams entered.

Episcopal’s Bailey Stevens (200, 500 freestyles) and Chanler Turnley (50 freestyle, 200 individual medley) are girls competitors with multiple top marks. Lutcher’s Luke Zeringue has the top entry marks in the 50 and 100 freestyles to lead the list of boys competitors.