Gabrielle Jennings was intent on having a fast start in the girls varsity race of the St. Joseph’s Invitational cross country meet on Saturday.

The eighth-grader from First Baptist School in Slidell sprinted to the front of the pack and stayed there, running the Highland Road Park course in 17 minutes, 41 seconds, well ahead of second-place finisher Morgan Scheutz of Parkview Baptist who finished at 19:00.

“I went out (from the start) so I wouldn’t get caught up,” Jennings said. “I have a habit of going out slow and then working my way up. My dad (her coach Todd Jennings) kept telling me ‘Get in the head of the line, get in the head of the line’ so I wouldn’t get caught up like I did (in races) in Memphis and Mobile.”

St. Joseph’s Academy placed five runners in the top 17 to capture the girls team title with 32 points. Kassidy Noto was the Redstickers’ top runner with a fifth place time of 6:24.

Other top scorers for SJA were Mary LaHaye (ninth, 6:28), Andree Laville (10th, 6:29), Rebecca Andries (12th, 6:35) and Elise Richard (17th, 6:42).

Mandeville placed second with 172 points, four points ahead of Walker with 176. St. Michael scored 240 to finish in seventh place.

It was the third win in three starts for SJA.

“We were running today to improve our times,” SJA coach Sam Young said. “I won’t know if we did that until I look at all the results, but we ran well enough to win. It was our same top seven as we had in the Episcopal meet last week, but there could be some shakeups. We had some good times in the junior varsity race today.”

Other local top 20 finishers were Dynasty Williams of Baker (11th), Katie Keller of Episcopal (14th), Addie Burleigh of Catholic-Pointe Coupee (16th), Sarah Leblanc of SJA (18th), Tayla Grieff of East Ascension (19th) and Annie Peek of SJA (20th).

Cole Stafford of Catholic High was the individual winner in the boys varsity division, but Brother Martin edged the Bears by three points for the team title. Stafford outran Christian Johnson of Episcopal down the final straightaway to finish in 15:20, which he said was his goal for the race.

“Christian Johnson was with me the whole race, the whole way,” Stafford said. “I wouldn’t say I ever pulled away. He was right there right up to the final turn going into the straightaway.”

Catholic had a fifth place from Brian Primeaux, sixth from Joseph St. Cyr, 21st from Brennan McLean and 22nd from James Claitor for 52 points, but that was three short of the Crusaders. Brother Martin had 52 points, Catholic 55 and Episcopal 110 to top the team scoring. St. Michael finished seventh with 233 points.

“We’ve been in a bunch of close meets. That’s been the story of the year,” Catholic coach Pete Boudreaux said. “We just came up a couple of points short. Brother Martin will be back (for the Catholic High Invitational at Highland Road Park) next week, and St. Paul’s will be here to add to the mix. It should be a heck of a meet.”

Episcopal had three other runners in the top 20 in Bryan Stamey (10th), Wesley Brown (11th) and Ben Murrey (18th).

David Harrison (7th) and Brady Warren (8th) had top 10 finishes for Walker High.

Zach Capello of Ascension Catholic finished ninth, and Jonathan Davis of Zachary came in 15th.