NATCHITOCHES — Other teams knew Catholic High and St. Joseph’s Academy could run fast and win easily. There was one final lesson at the LHSAA cross country meet.

The Redstickers and Bears proved they can run tough too. Both teams won Class 5A titles again, despite bitter cold conditions that were compounded by a muddy course Tuesday at Northwestern State.

“Look at the battle scars they’ve got … mud and slop everywhere. They ran so smart and so tough,” Catholic coach Pete Boudreaux said. “No sense in even paying attention to a clock because of the conditions. They did not panic early. And did we ever close in that last mile.”

St. Joseph’s placed all five of its scoring runners in the top 10 to finish with an incredibly low score of 23 — outdistancing longtime rival Mandeville with 80 as individual champion Isabelle Brown led the way. It is the third straight 5A title for SJA.

“We had five in the top 10 and for a while seven in the top 15,” St. Joseph’s coach Mark LaHaye said. “It was tough to finish that strong. Still, a great day.”

Led by second-place finisher James Lalonde, Catholic’s top five finished in the top 15 as the Bears scored 47 to place ahead of Brother Martin at 70 and St. Paul’s at 90. It was the second straight 5A title for the Bears.

As is typical at this meet, there was more to the BR story than two teams. St. Michael was the 4A girls runner-up, while University High grabbed runner-up finishes for boys and girls in 3A. West Feliciana (third in 3A boys) and St. Michael (fourth in 4A boys) also had notable finishes.

Brown, the area’s only individual champion Tuesday, summed up the course conditions the day after Class 2A and below class struggled with rain/mud to open the meet.

“It was such an unreal experience. The mud was insane,” Brown said. “We were sliding back and sinking into the ground. I’m really proud of my team. We had to readjust our goals and go for places and not times. I felt like we did a really good job.”

Brown finished the three-mile race in 21 minutes, 22 seconds, just ahead of Lafayette High’s Rosalie Michot (22:32) and teammate/2017 champion Lauren Hendry (21:50).

Lalonde ran stride-for-stride with champion Hunter Appleton of Brother Martin, who ran the day's top boys time of 17:59, until the final 300 meters on the track. Lalonde finished in 18:05.

U-High persevered in the 3A race that opened the day. Academy of Sacred Heart won with 26 points and the Cubs managed to slide in between the Lusher Charter with 67 points.

Ellie Pennington was fifth to lead the Cubs. Erath won the 3A boys race with 67 points and UHS was second at 87. West Feliciana’s Wyatt Barbe (third) and the Cubs’ Jack Moran (fifth) were among the leaders.

“After the second mile they had a chance to shine. We were in third after the second mile and they made up the ground they needed to get second,” U-High coach Pat Fellows said. “All year we knew it would come down to us and Erath for the boys. We came up a little short. There is plenty to be proud of.”

St. Michael coach Neil Borel echoed the same sentiments. Vandebilt Catholic won the 4A girls title with 33 points and SMHS was next at 73, led by third-place finisher Hailey Humphries.

“Just to get a trophy in these conditions says a lot,” Borel said.


Follow Robin Fambrough on Twitter, @FambroughAdv.