Catholic High’s Owen Simon is prepared for his final cross country season.
He knows the three-mile Highland Road Park course by heart. He has goals, and so does his team.
But Simon, the reigning All-Metro MVP, also knows he will not be in the lineup Saturday at Highland when the Bears open their season at St. Michael’s Bayou Boogie Invitational.
“They tell me I could be out two weeks, or I could be out the whole season,” Simon said. “Right now, we don’t know. I’m supposed to go see a specialist in New Orleans Monday to find out more. I want to come back as soon as I can.”
As eager as he is to compete, Simon understands this process perhaps too well. As a sophomore, he missed the outdoor track season with a combination of the flu and pneumonia. Now he has a hip injury.
Catholic coach Pete Boudreaux said the only thing that has stopped Simon’s upward trajectory as a distance runner has been the thing he relies on — his body.
“He has gone through some adversity,” Boudreaux said. “But nothing ever disrupts his focus as a runner or in the classroom. You hear stories all the time about runners have one great year and taper off.
“Owen was in the middle of the pack when he started with us. He doesn’t miss practices, puts in the work and has gotten better every year. He got sick as a sophomore and then the coronavirus shut down our (track) season last spring. My hope is that Owen and all the runners get a full season.”
Soccer was Simon’s first sport. When his parents suggested he try cross country as a middle schooler at St. George, Simon found his niche.
“I played soccer for a while and it was fine,” Simon said. “But it wasn’t my passion. It didn’t take me long to see running was it … my passion.”
Running did not bring instant success for Simon. The large number of runners and the competition at Catholic heightened his passion. He cracked the Bears’ top five in cross country as a sophomore, helping them win a Class 5A title.
After losing the track season to illness that year, Simon was determined to succeed his junior year. He did in a big way, placing second with a three-mile time of 15 minutes, 56 seconds on the Natchitoches course to help the Bears win another 5A title.
More success followed. Simon finished third in the 3,200 meters in 9:50.20 in the LHSAA’s Division I indoor track meet. In his first outdoor meet, equaled a personal best of 9:44 in the 3,200.
But the pandemic ended the outdoor track season. Instead of testing the resolve of the Catholic team, Simon believes the pandemic experience is a point of strength. It also is the reason he is not worried about the Bears going into Saturday’s season opener.
“The thing I like the most about our team is how competitive we are. We have got 20 guys capable of making the top seven every week,” Simon said. “We push each other. They will be ready.”