The St. Joseph’s Academy cross country team scored a perfect 15 points to win its fifth consecutive Class 5A, Region 2 Cross Country Championship. The Redstickers placed its five scoring runners in the top five spots to easily outdistance the field on November 7 at Highland Road Park. Fontainebleau finished a distant second with 91 points. Rounding out the top five in the three-mile race were Mandeville (122), Live Oak (138) and Dutchtown (147).
“Our girls were unstoppable,” Coach Mark LaHaye said. “A 76-point margin of victory over the second-place finisher speaks to the dominating performance turned in by the team. This was an awesome set up for our ‘drive for five’ next week,” LaHaye added, referencing the fifth consecutive state title the team will attempt to win on November 17.
Senior Sophie Martin finished first overall in 18:06.2. This is the second year in a row Martin won the regional race. Junior Maddie Kate Gardiner repeated as regional runner-up with a time of 18:22.9. Junior Elise Jones was third in 18:40.5, freshman Grace Rennhoff finished fourth in 18:57.6 (personal record) and sophomore Emma Claire Hendry was fifth in 19:00.1. SJA’s two non-scoring runners were junior Ava Lemoine, who finished eighth in 19:24.9, and junior Amelia Cochran, who was 11th in 19:39.6.
“The race went well for our team,” Martin said. “I am so proud of us and our perfect score. I am so excited for State and cannot wait to see our performance. We have very big expectations for what we are going to do, and I am positive we are going to meet them.”
Jones said the race was “absolutely incredible” as the team posted a perfect score. “It was a great way to end our time at Highland Road Park for the season,” she said. “Looking forward to State, we’re pumped and ready to prepare in every way possible. For the next week, my teammates and I will be icing our legs, visiting the athletic trainer at lunch and hydrating like crazy. In addition, our schedule includes a statistic meeting, a team mass and a final ‘tune-up’ practice on Sunday afternoon. If our passion for winning State isn’t evident enough through our running performance, it’s most definitely shown in our diligent preparation.”
Gardiner said that while she was disappointed to have not set a new personal record this season, she is proud of the team’s effort. “I’m very excited for what State will bring,” she said. “I’m also super pleased with the team results, getting a perfect score. I think everyone performed super well, and we are definitely pumped for State on Tuesday.”
“I’m so proud and honored to be a part of this amazing team and to have such a great coach,” Rennhoff said. “I pushed myself harder than I ever have and am so happy that I was able to help the team. The weather was perfect, and I think this helped everyone. I am so excited to go to State to help my team win.”
SJA also won the junior varsity race. Senior Lydia Poche finished first in a season-best time of 18:41.4. Senior Anna Camille Eagleton finished fifth in 19.16.8 (season best); freshman Hannah Vaughan finished sixth in 19:21.2 (personal record); senior Macy Howard finished seventh in 19:25.6; senior Brynn Duggan finished eighth in 19:38.1; sophomore Claire Beyer finished 11th in 20:01.6; junior Lilly Leonard finished 14th in 20:22.2; freshman Katelyn Shannon finished 17th in 20:51.4; and senior Catherine Saunders finished 20th in 21:13.8.
The top eight teams and individual runners in the top 25 not part of a qualifying team advance to the Class 5A LHSAA State Cross Country Meet on November 17 at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Nan Murtagh and Tina LaHaye