What the Catholic High Invitational means to cross country teams is a matter of opinion.
Some cross country teams use it as a way to gauge progress at midseason.
Others like the chance compete against the top teams that typically attend the meet.
Running on the hill-oriented Highland Road Park course is something many teams try to do at least once a year.
Regardless of the reason, the annual meet set for Saturday at Highland is typically a highlight of the Baton Rouge season.
“I’m like a little kid when it comes this meet,” Catholic coach Pete Boudreaux said. “I look at all the teams and the individuals entered and I can’t help getting excited.
“It looks like we’ll have most of the top eight teams in the most recent boys poll. On the girls, you won’t have Mandeville, but you’ll have (St. Joseph’s Academy), Menard, Mount Carmel and Parkway, the team that won the 5A title last year. It’s a good group.”
More than 1,400 runners are entered in either the middle school or high school races. Action begins at 8:30 a.m. with the two-mile junior high girls race. The three-mile girls varsity race is set for 9:30 a.m., followed by the three-mile boys varsity race at 10 a.m. An open division race is expected to attract about 400 runners.
The weekend schedule also includes one Capital City Swim League meet set for Sunday at the Crawfish Aquatics pool.
Top-ranked John Curtis, defending 5A state champion St. Paul’s, host Catholic, Brother Martin, Rummel and Episcopal are among the boys teams to watch.
Curtis’ Devyn Keith, St. Paul’s Eric Coston and Rummel’s Conner Killian top the list of boys entrants. Host Catholic should get a boost from the return of Jeffrey Kelley, last year’s Metro MVP, from injury.
Gabrielle Jennings of Slidell’s First Baptist Christian tops the list of girls along with Episcopal’s Alicia Stamey, who won last weekend’s St. Joseph’s Academy Invitational. SJA sophomore Annie Hill is expected to miss another week while recovering from an illness.
Warm-ups begin at 12:30 p.m. and the first race is set for 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Teams entered include Episcopal, Zachary, East Ascension, St. James and Denham Springs.
Episcopal’s Bailey Stevens (200-yard individual medley, 100 freestyle), Mary Oliver (50 freestyle, 100 backstroke) and Chanler Turnley (500 freestyle, 100 breaststroke) enter the meet with two top entry marks.
Zachary’s Luke Troth, who has the top marks in the 50 and 100 freestyles, is the only boy with two top entry times.