Another chapter in a budding individual rivalry and dominating performances by two North Shore powers highlighted the St. Joseph’s Academy Cross Country Invitational Meet at Highland Road Park in Baton Rouge on Saturday.
SJA freshman Annie Hill stayed unbeaten on the season with a narrow 3.41 second win over Mandeville sophomore Olivia Murphy, but Murphy’s team had a comfortable 50-87 margin over St. Joseph’s to claim first place in the girls varsity division.
The Redstickers were missing one of their top runners, Andree Laville, who is still sidelined by an injury.
Class 1A Catholic of Pointe Coupee, led by eighth place finisher Addie Burleigh, finished third with 135 points ahead of ahead of Dominican (140) and Mt. Carmel (162).
St. Paul’s of Covington had a first place finisher in Zachary Albright and five runners in the top 15 to easily outdistance Catholic High 35-101 for the boys title. Brother Martin (105), John Curtis (145) and Episcopal-BR (153) rounded out the boys top five.
Hill, who collapsed from exhaustion at the finish line and needed several minutes to recover, praised her rival who pushed her to a new personal record of 18:12.44 for the three-mile course.
Murphy finished in 18:15.25.
Hill called it the hardest race she has ever run
“Olivia Murphy had a great race today,” she said. “She is so awesome and she has improved so much. I was kind of scared she was going to beat me.
“It was the SJA meet and so many family and friends came out to support the team. I didn’t want to disappoint everyone, so I kicked it in and she didn’t catch me.”
Clarissa Smith of Holden took fifth place and Haley Gregoire of St. Michael finished seventh as the other Baton Rouge area girls in the top 10.
All but one of Mandeville’s top finishers established a new PR as they welcomed back three runners who have been injured.
“We still have one out with appendicitis but it’s good to have our team back together,” Mandeville coach Gerald Springer said. “We have a young team, but they’ve been doing their workouts and my assistant coach Colette Murphy is doing great with them and really pushing them.”
St. Paul’s coach Terryl Chatham was also happy to have his entire team together for the meet.
“This is the first time all year we’ve been all together,” Chatham said. “We knew coming in we were going to be strong this season and it’s all about being healthy. Any time you get four of your guys in the top ten and five in the top 15 it’s a good day.
Albright, a senior, finished 12 seconds ahead of his freshman teammate Eric Coston.
“I came here thinking maybe I could run 15:30,” Albright said, “and then when we got here and it started raining my team decided we’d just go out and have fun. The course was a little muddy, but everyone had to deal with it.
“We’ve had the same group of guys growing up together, working out together, and we’ve been looking forward to this season for a long time. We’re ready to send a message this year.
“Eric (Coston) has been nipping at my heels all year and it’s great to work with people like that,” he said.
Episcopal’s Bryan Stamey, who finished first at the Episcopal Round Table Run earlier this season, finished third in 15:47.12, ahead of Zach Capello of Ascension Catholic (15:57.84).
Stamey’s sister Alicia won the junior high girls division two-mile race in 12:47.56.
Catholic High’s top finishers were Jeffrey Kelley in sixth place (15:59.75) and James Claitor in seventh (16:06.69).
Alex Lewis of Holy Rosary won the junior high boys division ahead of John Michael Hardin of Zachary. Catholic High had four runners and Episcopal two in the top ten.
St. Joseph’s coach and meet director Mark LaHaye said a few schools from New Orleans and the bayou parishes had to cancel in the face of Tropical Storm Karen, but approximately 1500 runners participated in the meet’s five different races.