For the seventh time in seven starts, the defending state champion St. Joseph’s Academy cross country team came away with an impressive victory at the 45th annual Catholic Invitational cross country meet. The race, originally scheduled for October 10, was moved to October 13 in advance of Hurricane Delta’s south Louisiana landfall.
In the three-mile varsity race at Highland Road Park, SJA placed its five scorers in the top seven and all seven runners in the top 15. The Redstickers scored a season-best 18 points. Rounding out the top three in the 10-team field were Episcopal (62 points) and E.D. White (85).
Senior Sophie Martin led the charge with a first-place finish in 18:17.3. Junior Maddie Kate Gardiner was second in 18:43.8; junior Ava Lemoine finished fifth in 19:18.7; junior Elise Jones was sixth in 19:40.3; and freshman Vincent Stella was seventh in 19:41.3. Senior Brynn Duggan was 10th in 19:55.9, and sophomore Emma Hendry finished 15th in 20:27.7.
“The girls persevered through the warm temperatures and, as the headline in today’s Advocate stated, we were ‘hot, not bothered,’” Coach Mark LaHaye said. “That pretty accurately summarizes our race day.”
Martin said she went into the race highly focused. “The weather was not ideal, but I am proud of myself for pushing through,” she said. “I am also proud of my team for doing the same. I feel that with the conditions, we did very well and persevered.”
Jones said running a Tuesday afternoon race was a departure from normal, which is running on Saturday mornings just after sunrise. “Having an afterschool meet forced us to change up our routines a little,” she said. “For example, we had to take into consideration our eating schedule and what foods we ate throughout the day. Even though we faced different circumstances, we ran very well, shown by our excellent low score of 18.”
Gardiner said the weather conditions made the race particularly challenging. “It definitely was interesting with the heat,” she said. “We went out a little fast, but I’m very proud of the team’s effort despite the unusual weather and meet time. I’m super proud of the entire team’s effort and looking forward to the upcoming races.”
“I feel like the team did very well in the CHS meet,” Vincent said. “Despite the heat and timing of the meet, we performed well as a team. I think the team will continue to dominate every meet we attend.”
Lemoine said Coach LaHaye told the runners to act like the race was the state meet, which will also be run on a Tuesday (November 17). “I thought that we all did a good job of working together and doing our pack running,” she said. “I felt like we all executed the state feel and dominated.”
For the fourth week in a row, the JV team scored a perfect 15 points. All 10 runners finished in the top 10 spots, as follows: freshman Grace Rennhoff, first, 19:56.9; freshman Hannah Vaughan, second, 20:15.7; freshman Madison Mannino, third, 20:26.1 (personal record); senior Lydia Poche, fourth, 20:34.5; senior Anna Camille Eagleton, fifth, 20:37.3; sophomore Claire Beyer, sixth, 20:42.1; junior Amelia Cochran, seventh, 21:24.3; senior Macy Howard, eighth, 21:40.3; senior Catherine Saunders, ninth, 21:44.4; and sophomore Blair Duggan, 10th, 21:55.7.
“I felt very excited winning with the help of my team motivating me,” Rennhoff said. “I thought everyone pushed themselves, even though it was at the end of the day. I am so proud of my team.”
Mannino said she was proud of her personal-record time. “Everyone pushed themselves,” she said. “We did amazing as a team and individually.”
Vaughan agreed. “The meet was challenging physically and mentally,” she said. “I’m really proud that we overcame that and still did amazing. It takes a lot to overcome that pain, and I couldn’t be prouder of the outcome of the race. Every single person on the team did amazing, and I am so glad I got the opportunity to run this race. This race has made us all better as a team in many ways.”
Next up for the Redstickers is the SNL Cross Country Invitational at Acadiana Park in Lafayette.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Nan Murtagh