The St. Joseph’s Academy cross country team won its seventh consecutive LHSAA state championship on November 14. With its five scoring runners in the top 17 places, the Redstickers scored 40 points to finish ahead of Ruston (77) and Mount Carmel Academy (87). There were 24 teams in the field.
The three-mile championship race was held at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.
Hannah Vaughan is the individual Division I state champion, finishing in a time of 18:05.6. She was the third SJA runner to capture the individual title since 2004, joining Lauren Hendry (2017) and Isabelle Brown (2018).
Vaughan was followed by Michelle Daigle, third place, 18:14.6; Elise Brown, eighth place, 18:38.0; Grace Rennhoff, 15th place, 19:20.8; Madison Mannino, 17th place, 19:30.9; Kaitlyn Francise, 25th place, 20:03.1; and Julia Monzon, 27th place, 20:04.9.
Coach Mark LaHaye said that while 40 points was not the Redstickers’ lowest score in state championship history, the team time of 1:33.49.9 was the program’s fastest at the state meet and beat the previous record low time of 1:34.05.47 set by Barbe in 2005. “We never talked about beating that time this season, but it’s always been one of our team goals,” LaHaye said. “It’s really incredible to have accomplished that.”
Vaughan’s 18:05.6 set a new school record for the state meet and was the second fastest time across all divisions in the 2022 competition. Daigle’s time of 18:13.6 is the Redstickers’ second fastest in state championship history, and Brown now holds the number five spot in SJA’s fastest times at state.
“It never gets old,” LaHaye said of winning another state title, adding that the win was a true team effort. “We competed almost exactly as we had planned. Our number one and two runners did what they were supposed to do by going out hard and setting a fast pace. Then our three and four runners did what they were supposed to do by staying in sight and closing hard. Then our five, six and seven runners were right where they needed to be and just slammed the door shut on the competition.”
Vaughan said the team pushed each other to stay in the moment and concentrate on what each runner could do. “We said it just matters what each one of us can do and what’s inside of you,” she said. “You have to trust your training. We’ve been training for six months or more. … A little before the two-mile mark, Michelle and I talked to each other and said, ‘We can do this,’ and we both surged. From there, I just never stopped. I am very proud of how we performed. It was a tough race, but I am so happy with how we overcame the adversity and claimed another trophy.”
Brown said that while she didn’t run her best race, she was thrilled to bring home the championship trophy for a seventh year. “I am so happy because I was able to run with such a good team,” she said. “I love these girls and am so proud of all of them. I couldn’t ask for a better team to run with, and I know each and every one of these girls has worked so hard all season.”
Rennhoff said the team worked hard to achieve its goal of winning the state title. “Our bond and our focus on pack running really led us to another state win,” she said. “Along with that, the weather was a major factor because the cold air really helped us run faster. It feels amazing to bring home yet another trophy because it shows how much this team has accomplished.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Stacy Rennhoff