St. Michael wins 4A title; Williams top 3A individual

NATCHITOCHES — Good things come to those who wait, even when it involves running a three-mile cross country race.

The St. Michael the Archangel girls team and Baker High’s Dynasty Williams proved that point to lead the Baton Rouge contingent on Tuesday at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Cross Country Championships.

The Warriors were caught up in a pack of competitive Baton Rouge teams during the regular season. St. Michael stepped into the spotlight to win its first Class 4A girls state title since 2009 as the annual meet concluded at the Walter Ledet Track Complex. It is the eighth title for the SMHS girls.

Likewise, Williams grabbed her piece of the spotlight by winning the Class 3A girls individual title.

“It was heroic,” SMHS coach Neil Borel said of his team’s effort. “We had not figured ourselves much better than second place, quite frankly, because St. Thomas More had beat us a couple of times. Benton was a mystery team, and Vandebilt Catholic always seemed to get inside of us.

“We challenged the girls. They met the challenge and followed the plan we had. It’s been an incredible day for us.”

A sweep of Class 3A titles by Thibodaux’s E.D. White Catholic and a runner-up finish by West Feliciana in the 3A boys competition were among the other highlights. The St. Michael boys (fourth in 4A), Catholic High boys (fifth in 5A) and St. Joseph’s Academy (fifth in 5A girls) were other top Baton Rouge finishers.

St. Michael placed two girls in the 4A top 10. The Warriors finished with 68 points, finishing ahead of Lafayette’s St. Thomas More (78) and 2011 champion Benton (93).

Haley Gregoire, running her first race since September because of an injury, was fourth with a three-mile time of 19 minutes, 28.86 seconds to lead St. Michael. Allie Stone was sixth (19:58.62). Gabriella Rincon (17th, 20:57.69), Hannah Gregoire (19th, 20:58.34) and Carly Varnado (22nd, 21:04.68) also scored for the Warriors.

STM’s Hannah Bourque won her second straight individual title in 18:59.24.

Meanwhile, Williams won the day’s first race with a three-mile time of 19:46.03. She trailed runner-up Kaitlin Tanner, of Loyola-Shreveport (19:46.69), by three seconds when the two runners reached the final hill before entering the Ledet track. The BHS junior took the lead in the final 10 meters.

“Trainingwise, I did more sprinting than I usually do, and I did more weights than I usually do, and it paid off,” Williams said. “At the end, I knew I needed to sprint, and I just went for it. I means a lot for me to win this for my school.”

E.D. White Catholic won the 3A girls title in impressive fashion for the second straight year, placing four runners in the top 10 once again. The Cardinals had 31 points to place ahead of South Beauregard (68). Buckeye (76) edged Tangipahoa-based Jewel Sumner (77) for third.

Emily Sauce (20:11.64) placed third to lead E.D. White. The Cardinals also had Hannah Babin (fifth, 20:34.43), Adelyne Labat (seventh, 10:42.28) and MiMi Guidry (ninth, 21:01.45) in the top 10.

Scotti Dykes (fourth, 20:18.93) and Breonne Williams (sixth, 20:42.14) were top 10 finishers for Sumner.

It was the second straight 3A sweep for EDW. Buckeye’s Jacob Chicola won the 3A individual title in 16:08.55. Sumner’s Leonel Moreno was second (16:20.16), while Michael Sullivan was third (16:44.91) to power West Feliciana.

EDW’s boys finished with 43 points, while WFHS (58) took the runner-up spot for the third straight season. Buckeye (97) was third.

The Cardinals were led by Ian Coats (fourth, 16:50.68). Devin Turner (12th, 17:14.25) and John Stafford (13th, 17:24.97) were other top finishers.

“I don’t know what to say,” E.D. White coach Don Grabert said. “They ran better than last year. I think our kids ran together and stayed in a pack (for the boys), and I think it made a difference down the stretch.

“The girls ran really well. We had four runners from last year who didn’t run this year. Two of them missed the season with injuries. I think they (girls) also did as good or better than last year.”

There was a delay in the announcement of 3A totals. One team, Caldwell Parish, was disqualified for not following race procedures, said LHSAA assistant executive director Keith Alexander.

“We had to pull a runner who got sick this morning, but we ran well,” WFHS coach Nick Smith said. “Overall, 3A was much tougher this time.”

Ryan White (sixth, 16:37.69) was a top 10 finisher for St. Michael, which had 98 points in the boys competition. The Warriors were edged for third place by St. Thomas More (98) based on a tie-breaker, behind Benton (57) and Shaw (70).

Joseph St. Cyr, who placed sixth (15:29.42), led Catholic in the 5A boys race. The Bears finished with 146 points. East Ascension’s Tayla Grieff, who was 12th in 19:03.23, was the only Baton Rouge competitor in the 5A girls top 15. St. Joseph’s had 149 points.