The St. Joseph’s Academy cross country team kicked off the 2020 season with two dominating wins. SJA’s top six runners brought home top honors from the Mobile Cross Country Challenge of Champions, while the JV team won the 24th annual St. Michael Bayou Boogie Invitational at Highland Road Park. Both events were held on September 5.
The Mobile Challenge draws standout athletes from across the Gulf South. The 27th annual event was hosted by Mobile Sports Authority.
With all five scorers finishing in the top 12, SJA recorded a low score of 32 points and finished 48 points ahead of runner-up St. Paul’s Episcopal.
Junior Maddie Kate Gardiner led with Redstickers with a third-place finish in a time of 20:34.9. Senior Sophie Martin finished fourth in 20:44.0; junior Elise Jones finished eighth in 21:11.9; junior Ava Lemoine finished 10th in 21:20.7; sophomore Emma Hendry finished 12th in 21:28.3; and senior Anna Camille Eagleton finished 13th in 21:38.1.
Gardiner said the team was confident going into the race and, despite relatively slow times on an unfamiliar course with difficult footing, felt good about the outcome. “We went out at a comfortable pace and stuck together,” she said. “We all finished within 10 places of each other, and this is something we’ve been practicing all summer. It was great to see it all work out. We really set a high standard for the season, even though our times weren’t very fast.”
Martin expressed a degree of disappointment with her time but said the team’s performance outweighed all else. “We had practiced so hard, and our dedication and hard work really paid off,” she said. “I am extremely proud of our victory at the meet and think it is a really good start to our season.”
Jones said the team prepared for the Mobile course by incorporating hairpin turns into their workouts. That and a strong summer of training resulted in the first win of the year, she said. “I don’t think any of us were satisfied with our personal times, perhaps due to the scorching, mid-morning heat or unfamiliarity of the course,” Jones said. “But for away meets, placement is what really counts, rather than the clock. I’m very proud of us Mobile girls for dominating in a new city.”
Lemoine also expressed pride in the team’s performance. “It was a challenging course, but we were well prepared,” she said. “We did a really good job of pushing each other and staying close together. Overall, it may have been a harder course, but together we persevered and did our best.”
At Highland Road Park, SJA runners overcame intense humidity and strict COVID-19 rules, including three waves of runners starting in staggered, 30-second intervals. Freshman Stella Vincent finished first in 19:41.0 to lead the Redstickers’ attack.
Seven runners finished in the top nine, and nine finished in the top 12 for a low score of 23 points. Rounding out the top five were St. Michael (61), Mount Carmel Academy (75), Live Oak (107) and Parkview Baptist (125).
SJA’s top seven finishers were Vincent; freshman Hannah Vaughn, 4th place, 20:45.0; senior Lydia Poche, 5th place, 20:54.0; junior Amelia Cochran, 6th place, 21:06.0; freshman Grace Rennhoff, 7th place, 21:07.0; senior Macy Howard, 8th place, 21:18.0; and freshman Inessa Robillard, 9th place, 21:26.0.
Next up for the Redstickers is the Episcopal Round Table Run on September 12 at Highland Road Park. The varsity race starts at 8:20 a.m. followed by the JV race at 10:30 a.m.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Nan Murtagh and Loretta Robillard