Fielding two teams in the varsity division, the St. Joseph’s Academy cross country team finished first and second in the McNeese Cowboy Cross Country Stampede, held September 28 at the Darbonne Multi-Sports Complex in Lake Charles. There were 10 complete teams and 82 finishers in the 5K varsity race.
The SJA White team scored 31 points, followed by SJA Red (33) and St. Thomas More (96). The SJA junior varsity team won its two-mile race with a perfect 15 points. Other top finishers were South Beauregard (60) and Lacassine (86).
The top seven varsity finishers for SJA Red were senior Isabelle Brown, 1st place, 19:22.77; senior Virginia Dirks, 3rd place, 19:36.0; junior Anna Camille Eagleton, 6th place, 20:27.5; senior Lucy Laville, 14th place, 21:17.3; freshman Emma Claire Hendry, 15th place, 21:20.6; junior Lydia Poche, 16th place, 21:48.3; and sophomore Elise Jones, 17th place, 22:02.9.
The top seven varsity finishers for SJA White were sophomore Maddie Kate Gardiner, 4th place, 19:42.2; junior Sophia Martin, 5th place, 20:11.1; senior Mary Claire Saia, 7th place, 20:28.7; junior Katie Ritchie, 9th place, 20:33.1; sophomore Lilly Leonard, 11th place, 21:04.7; sophomore Ava Lemoine, 12th place, 21:07.6; and senior Caroline Ritchie, 20th place, 22:35.
“What an incredible day,” said head coach Mark LaHaye. “This was as close to a clean sweep as one might dare dream about. In the varsity race, we entered two separate and relatively equal teams and took first and second, with 14 of the top 20 places. There were only two points and two seconds that separated the two teams. It was a fun yet competitive red-versus-white battle all the way to the finish line.”
SJA separated its JV runners into red and white teams, as well, though they were entered as just one scored team. Thirteen runners scored in the top 13 places, and the top seven JV finishers scored a perfect 15 points. They were freshman Bella Palmintier, 1st place, 13:49.6 (personal record); junior Macy Howard, 2nd place, 13:51.2; freshman Claire Beyer, 3rd place, 14:11.7; sophomore Alexis Napoli, 4th place, 14:14.2; freshman Allison Linton, 5th place, 14:15.7 (personal record); junior Brynn Duggan, 6th place, 14:23.7; and junior Alessandra Purnell, 7th place, 14:27.8.
Brown, who has finished first in all three of her starts this year, said the race was a lot of fun. “It was a nice change of scenery for the team, and I’m happy with how we performed in the heat and on a new course.”
Dirks said the race provided a great opportunity to record a fast 5K time. “It was also fun to split into two teams in the varsity race and be able to race against our own teammates from a team competition standpoint,” she said. “We were all extremely proud of our JV girls for winning their race with a perfect score which shows how much depth our team really has. We look forward to hosting our home meet at Highland Road Park this weekend.”
Eagleton said she enjoyed the experience of running a 5K race. “I felt like we worked together as a team really well this meet because we ran in our packs,” she said. “I think we were a bit nervous because running a 5K is a little more than what we’re used to, but it worked out well for the team.”
Ritchie said the inner-team competition was a great motivator. “Our red and white teams raced so well together and pushed each other very hard,” she said. “We had never run this course before, but we did not allow that to prohibit us from racing as hard as we could. Our dynamic as a team is very strong, especially for still being early in the season, and we proved that at McNeese.”
Martin said the runners pulled together for an outstanding day. “I am so proud of my teammates and their performances,” she said. “I was blown away and could not have asked for a better day.”
Gardiner said she learned the importance of the third through fifth runners. “The first and second runners can get first and second overall, but if the three-five runners don’t have a great day, it affects the entire team,” she said. “The three-five runners really helped the white team pull through and win the race, so it just shows the importance of running as a team and not as an individual.”
The Redstickers will host the SJA Cross Country Invitational on October 5 at Highland Road Park. This is one of the largest races of the year. The varsity event starts at 8:30 a.m., and the JV race gets underway at 10:30 a.m.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt