NATCHITOCHES — There was a little more drama for Ascension Catholic and more of the same for Episcopal as the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Cross Country meet opened on Monday.
Spectators and coaches counted each top-20 finisher in the Class 1A girls race. ACHS placed four runners in the top 10, one more than St. Martin’s. It was enough to give the Bulldogs their second straight title and third title in the past four years.
It was a different count for the Episcopal boys. The Knights put six of their top seven runners in the top 10 while winning 2A title, their 21st state title in a row and 30th in 32 years.
“It’s a number and that’s all it is,” Episcopal coach Claney Duplechin said of the Knights’ streak. “I don’t like dwelling on it, and we seldom mention it. But it is incredible. We’ve had some luck that has factored in along the way, without a doubt.
“What I’d rather us be known for is being a team that has kids who come out and work hard every year.To have five of the top six and six in the top 10 is a great accomplishment. This group worked as hard as any team I've had.”
The Episcopal girls and Ascension Catholic boys were runner-up finishers. Episcopal’s Graham Frazier and Randy Carter Jr. of Class C Jehovah-Jireh were individual champions during the first day of the meet held at Northwestern State. Competition for Class 3A to 5A begins at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Episcopal had 19 points to win the boys title ahead of Hammond’s St. Thomas Aquinas at 67. Ascension Catholic edged St. Martin’s by nine points, 48 to 57, for its 1A girls title.
St. Martin’s already won the 1A boys race and sought a sweep. The trio of Sophie Daigle, Breanna Bernard and Stephanie Breaux finished second through fourth, respectively, for the Bulldogs.
“We had some injuries and illness this year,” first-year Ascension Catholic head coach A.J. Thibodeaux said. “Today they put that behind them and ran what I thought was their best race of the season.”
St. Martin’s put three runners in the top four and scored 48 points in the 1A boys competition. Ascension Catholic edged Cedar Creek by one point, 78 to 79, for second
"We knew we had an uphill battle today with the boys,” Thibodeaux said. “To be honest with you, a few weeks ago we were probably No. 4 or No. 5 in 1A, but they really came on.”
Three straight third-place finishes led Episcopal girls coach Eddie Cole to implore his team to get on the awards stand. Runner-up Alicia Stamey and third-place finisher Hayley Schwab led the way.
“The last three years we had to run well to get third against some tough competition,” Cole said. “We wanted to get on the platform. There’s a board at the school which lists all the state champions and runners-up. This team has that now, they’ll leave that mark behind."
EHS' Frazier managed to win an individual dual with Lakeside’s Cody Robinson. He finished in 16 minutes, 10 seconds ahead of Robinson at 16:10.02.
“It’s all about peaking at the right time,” Frazier said. “We came out looking more at what we could do as a team. My race? It was good. I knew Cody Robinson was a tough competitor. It’s all good.”
JJCA's Carter won the title as a freshman but placed second to rival Alex Lewis of Holy Rosary the past two years.
Leaving nothing to chance, Carter bolted into the lead at the start of the third mile and posted a winning time of 16:24.33, 19 seconds ahead of Lewis.
"It’s my senior year, and I had to do my best," Carter said. "It wasn’t my best time, but I’m happy. When Alex and I have grandchildren, we’ll be talking about our competition. I know it’s something I’ll remember always.”
There was an added bonus with Grand Isle winning the Class C boys title with 48 points. The team coach, by former Plaquemine High basketball coach Denny Wright, is made up of Wright’s basketball players.
“We knew it was possible,” Wright said of the title. “We got off to a good start and won our very first meet held at Grand Isle. And now we won the last one. The goal now is to do it again in March (in basketball).”
ESA sweeps again
Episcopal School of Acadiana won Class B titles for boys and girls for the third straight year. The boys placed three runners in the top 10 and scored 45 points, led by runner-up Oliver Nickel.
“Every year is a little bit different,” ESA coach Laura Mangann said. “I had to say we expected to win, but we were prepared to win. They put in quite a bit of work and they’ve gotten each year."
Not to be outdone, the ESA girls placed four of its top five in the top 10 while winning their state title with 32 points. Samantha Withers won the individual title in 19:43.62 and Aline Malek was second.
Withers wasn’t the only Acadiana area girl who won an individual title. Ascension Episcopal’s Kirsten Landry won the 1A race in 18:42.83, the second-fastest girls time of the day.