Brother Martin’s cross country team didn’t expect to win. But what happened at the Catholic High Invitational proved that good things can come when you least expect them.
“I’m actually shocked that we won,” Brother Martin coach Ryan Gallagher said. “I thought we came in second or third. It was so close, it looked like it could have gone either way.
“I think we had just enough with our top three to make the difference. Ben Crowley, our No. 3, ran an awesome race. He stepped up big time, and I’m really proud of him.”
The St. Joseph’s Academy Invitational held the previous weekend was all about fast times. There were some fast times, but this Saturday meet at Highland Road Park in Baton Rouge was more about close finishes.
Last week’s team champion, St. Paul’s, and the top two individual finishers of last week’s race, John Curtis’ Devyn Keith and Eric Coston of St. Paul’s, did not compete. So the teams, including Parkway of Bossier City, found themselves in a different mix.
Brother Martin finished with 98 points to win the boys title, just ahead of host Catholic (101) and Episcopal at 104. Parkway was fourth at 146.
St. Joseph’s and Mandeville battled again for the girls title. SJA won for the second straight week with 52 points. Mandeville was next at 96, despite missing two of its top five runners. Individual champion Sara Funderburk led Parkway to a third-place finish at 102, followed by Mount Carmel at 158.
The race for the boys individual title was just as close. Catholic’s Jeffrey Kelley and Assumption’s Jacob Daigle ran shoulder-to-shoulder for most of the three-mile race. The duo traded the lead a couple of times before Kelley got just enough separation to win in 15 minutes, 2.66 seconds. Daigle was second in 15:04.94. Baton Rouge High’s Ryan Burrell and Brother Martin’s Hayden Courrege’ were next.
“I knew (Kelley) was going to push the pace, and I just got on his hip,” Daigle said. “I knew what splits I wanted to run, so I tried to pick it up on the second mile. He stayed right there with me.
“I definitely wanted to win, but it was a great race and I know I’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Courrege’ was fourth to pace Brother Martin. Hunter Appleton (10th) and Benjamin Crowley (11th) were the other top finishers for the Crusaders. Holy Rosary’s Alex Lewis (fifth), Holy Cross’ Blake Baldassaro (eighth) and Rummel’s Conner Killian (ninth) also were among the leaders in the race that featured 367 runners.
“I was trying to go out with Hunter Appleton,” Crowley, a sophomore, said. “I kept him in my line of sight. This was a (personal record) for me by seven seconds. Getting the team title was a confidence-builder.”
Funderburk won the three-mile girls race in 17:41.50, ahead of Mandeville’s Olivia Murphy (17:44.81) and SJA’s Annie Hill (17:59.98). Claire Crosby, the individual champion a week earlier, was one of the runners missing for Mandeville. An illness kept Crosby on the sideline.
The girls finishes were the fast times to note. There was no individual record, but the top 15 runners all finished under 19 minutes, compared to 11 at the St. Joseph’s meet.
Mandeville’s Ally McCulley (ninth) also was among the top finishers.
“We have a little more depth and those girls are stepping up,” Mandeville coach Gerald Singer said. “We were competitive. We’ve got to step up a little more to run with St. Joseph’s. We’re getting there.”
Brother Martin’s Gallagher added, “We came to this meet last year and lost to Parkway by 17 points. And we were able to beat Parkway at the state meet. So it’s nice to get the win, but it’s only the middle of October and we’ve got a long way to go.”