It would be easy to cast Kirsten Landry as an unknown underdog who came into Highland Road Park to steal the thunder of some top runners.
There was no thunder on a bright, windy day — just a lightning fast start by Ascension Episcopal’s Landry as she won the girls varsity race at the Catholic High Invitational on Saturday.
“This is my favorite course,” Landry said. “I think this is my fourth or fifth time to run here. Where I’m from, over near Lafayette, most of the courses are flat. I love running the hills.
“Since this is such a big race, I didn’t want to get boxed in. So I took off real fast. Then I gave my body a chance to settle in, and I turned it on again.”
Landry opened up a 10- to 15-yard lead at the one-mile mark and extended her lead to win the three-mile race in 17 minutes, 44.74 seconds, nearly 19 seconds faster than runner-up Alicia Stamey of Episcopal (18:05.55).
The impressive race by Landry, last year’s LHSAA Class 1A runner-up, offered a special footnote on a day in which most races followed a formula.
St. Joseph’s Academy and Mandeville dueled for the girls team title, and the Redstickers finished with the low total of 87 points, while MHS was next at 113, followed by Vandebilt Catholic at 139. The team chase was not as close as a week earlier when SJA edged the Skippers by three points to win its Redsticker Invitational.
Hayden Courrege’ and Hunter Appleton took the top two places to lead Brother Martin to the boys team title with 73 points. Episcopal was second at 93, followed by host Catholic at 106.
Courrege’ passed Appleton in the final few feet before the finish line to win in 15:05.09, while Appleton recorded a 15:05.52. Both runners broke the BMHS school record.
There was a little drama behind Landry, Stamey and Dutchtown’s Tara Stuntz, who was third in 18:23.93.
The good news for St. Joseph’s was that Gabbi Chauvin has recovered from an illness and placed sixth. The bad news was that Lauren Hendry got inadvertently spiked by another runner about 200 yards from the finish line on the final turn.
Hendry has been the top runner for SJA in several races, and she finished 21st. Jennifer Bennett (16th) was the other Redsticker in the top 20.
“It was so crowded,” SJA coach Mark Lahaye said of the race that had 291 finishers. “Our five, six and seven runners were talking about how they got boxed in and fell behind. We started slow and picked up it."
Episcopal’s Hayley Schwab placed ninth and was the only other local girl to finish in the top 10. Zachary’s John Paul Hardin was fifth in 15:43.71 to lead all local boys finishers. Catholic’s Thomas Laville (sixth), Episcopal’s Graham Frazier (eighth) and Alexander Landry of St. Michael also finished in the top 10.
Episcopal ran without one of its top runners. Kenny Schafer was sidelined by an illness, but the effort of the Knights provided the right dose of success for coach Claney Duplechin.
"I thought the top five competed very well," Duplechin said. "In some ways, I think they ran a little harder because Kenny wasn’t there. I’m proud of the team and of our junior high team for winning today. It was a good day.”