The St. Joseph’s Academy cross country team traveled to Horseshoe Hills Ranch in Natchitoches for this summer’s four-day preseason running clinic. The team, which has captured the last seven Class 5A state championships, spent four days and three nights at the end of July completing a variety of run sessions in Natchitoches and on the campus of Northwestern State University, playing competitive team games, performing team-building exercises and setting team goals for the 2023 season.
Prior to departure, the team was divided into four sub-teams with an assigned color, each with two senior leaders. They were Grace Rennhoff, Stella Vincent, Hannah Vaughan, Kathryn Casey, Kaitlyn Francise, Madison Mannino, Elise Brown and Julia Monzon.
Each day began with a 6 a.m. wake-up call followed by a morning run, which varied in mileage and culminated with a 10-mile run opportunity on the last day of camp. Days were filled with competitively scored team games, team discussions and team-building exercises, as well as a field trip to Holiday Lanes Bowling.
The runners were treated to home-cooked meals by ranch owner Andrea Zachary. Chaperones were Angelle Brown, Missy Francise, Kristen Pasquier and Kelly Vaughan. Head coach Mark LaHaye is joined on this year’s staff by assistant coaches Kate Butler Cook ’01 and Sarah Catherine Buie ’15 and faculty moderator Angelle Saia.
Francise said she loved the opportunity to bond as a team and to provide leadership to help the newest team members understand what cross country culture is about. “I think camp is important for a sport like cross country because most of practice is self-focused and makes it hard to bond as a team,” she said. “Camp allows everyone to form new bonds and get closer. Being a senior at camp felt bittersweet and special. I loved the leadership role and working extra hard to make sure I leave an impact on this team.”
Rennhoff said the camp provided a spark of excitement as the 2023 season nears. “Camp was especially meaningful for me this year because it is my senior year, so it is my last camp,” she said. “I hope that the seniors are leaving a legacy of strong leadership for the underclassmen to look up to.”
Brown said the annual preseason camp is vital to creating team chemistry. Being divided into four sub-teams across grade levels allows new friendships to form. “To be a senior at camp was a surreal experience,” she said. “Remembering my camp experience freshman year was a crazy difference in my personal growth, not just regarding speed or physical performance, but the fact that as a freshman, I went from having no friends at camp or on the team to being a leader of my own color team. I’m so glad I was able to make it this far.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt