With seven runners in the top 10, the St. Joseph’s Academy cross country team won the 2019 Metro Cross Country Championship, held November 2 at Highland Road Park. The team scored 17 points to win the three-mile race, which featured 13 complete teams and 148 finishers.
This was SJA’s 12th consecutive Metro Meet victory. The team’s low score of 17 points was a new school record for the Metro Championship.
Rounding out the top five teams were St. Michael (73 points), Episcopal (94 points), Dutchtown
(105) and Live Oak (159).
SJA’s top seven varsity finishers were sophomore Maddie Kate Gardiner, 2nd place, 18:17.88; junior Sophie Martin, 3rd place, 18:20.84; senior Virginia Dirks, 4th place, 18:26.66 (personal record); junior Lydia Poche, 5th place, 19:02.53; sophomore Lillian Leonard, 8th place, 19:11.69; senior Mary Claire Saia, 10th place, 19:13.69; and sophomore Elise Jones, 11th place, 19:18.69 (personal record). Other personal-record finishers were freshman Emma Hendry, 12th place, 19:29.59; and sophomore Ava Lemoine, 14th place, 19:43.15.
“This was a great day for our team winning our 12th straight Metro Championship,” said head coach Mark LaHaye. “Even with the sloppy conditions resulting in slower-than-normal race times, we still had seven runners race for personal record times, including four of our varsity runners. On the team side, we crushed the competition, scoring a low of 17 points, with all 11 of our varsity runners finishing in the top 15.”
Gardiner said the times were slowed by the weather, “but the competition was great. I thought the team did very well, and we’ve been working really hard to get to this point.”
Dirks said the conditions were tough, but the meet gave the team a great boost of confidence heading into the regional and state meets. “The conditions were not ideal, the course was muddy and wet from the rain and it was very cold, which caused our times to be a slower than we had planned,” she said. “On Friday at practice, Coach Mark brought to our attention that we had never scored below 20 at the Metro Meet. Breaking 20 points was our main goal for the race, which we accomplished.”
Poche said that while the runners fell short of their goal of fast times, they ran well as a team. “We again showed our depth and ability,” she said. “I’m very excited for regionals this week. I feel that we are in amazing shape going towards the end of our season.”
Saia characterized the meet as a chilly and successful morning. “We went in with the mindset of just overcoming our obstacles, the cold and mud, and accomplishing our goal of a low score and fast times,” she said. “We did what we do best, running as a pack to finish as a team. Our win was not based on one individual but rather groups of those Redsticker jerseys crossing the finish line together. With state two weeks away, we are continuing to train harder than ever.”
Jones said she was proud of the team’s effort and her personal accomplishment of dropping her time by 30 seconds. “This is usually the point of the season when we reach our peak performances, so we’re all pumped and ready to give it our all,” she said.
In addition to celebrating a 12th metro title, the team also honored its five seniors. They are Caroline Ritchie, Isabelle Brown, Lucy Laville, Mary Claire Saia and Virginia Dirks.
The 2-5A Regional Cross Country Championship will take place on November 8 at Highland Road Park beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos by Nan Murtagh and Tina LaHaye