Sometimes scrapping the original plan is the best option. It worked for Lauren Hendry of St. Joseph’s Academy, who led most of the way while winning the Baton Rouge area's first cross country race of the season Saturday.
Samuel Kellum of St. Martin’s Episcopal did the opposite. He waited until the second mile to take the lead and got the same result at St. Michael the Archangel’s Bayou Boogie meet at Highland Road Park.
"I was planning on going out behind everybody and then moving up," Hendry said. "Once the race started, I got the feeling that wasn’t going to work, so I just kind of went for it.”
Hendry said she heard cheers for the runners behind her, and that pushed her close to a sprint in the final 800 meters on the muddy, waterlogged course. The junior finished the three-mile race in 18 minutes, 58.97 seconds, just over 20 seconds ahead of teammate Isabelle Brown, who placed second.
The Redstickers’ Virginia Dirks was fifth, giving them the boost they needed to win the team title with 42 points, ahead of Mandeville at 61. Menard (78) and St. Michael (105) were the other leaders.
Kellum took the coy approach, biding his time until the second mile. He surged on the third mile and won the boys race in 16:10.59. Like Hendry, Kellum finished ahead of a teammate, second-place Benjamin Bone (16:22.31).
“I wanted to conserve energy in that first mile,” said Kellum, also a junior. “I moved up with the leaders in the second mile, passed them and tried to push the lead out as much as I could the last mile."
Kellum and Bone helped the Saints place fourth. Catholic High provided the biggest surprise by winning with a low score of 39. The Bears had a sophomore and two freshmen in their top five that ran just 50 seconds apart. Juniors Collin Hedges (third) and James Lalonde (fifth) led the Bears. John Curtis was second at 105, followed by Mandeville (110) and St. Martin’s (127).
“I don’t know if we’re ready to run with the big boys yet,” Catholic coach Pete Boudreaux said. “We’re a really young team. We were hoping Collin and James could stay with the leader group and see what happened from there.”
St. Joseph’s also has new faces, including Brown, a fact that excites coach Mark LaHaye.
“Considering the conditions, we did really well and had a couple of surprises,” LaHaye said. “We had two freshmen in the top five and two girls who didn’t run last year in the top group. Lauren was second in this race last year, and she was determined.”