Sacred Heart races to Class 2A girls cross country title

NATCHITOCHES — Academy of Sacred Heart won five consecutive state cross country titles before moving into Class 2A a year ago.

Coach Greg Caro knew his team needed a specific kind of focus to succeed at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Cross Country Championships on Monday.

“The last six weeks, we were focusing on the teams we needed to focus on,” Caro said. “That was Episcopal, Newman, Menard and St. Thomas Aquinas.

“Episcopal ran a wonderful race today. But our girls pack ran super duper today. We have one junior, three freshmen and two sixth-graders. This was great.”

Sacred Heart placed all five of its scoring runners in the top 17 while winning the Class 2A girls title at the Walter Ledet Track Complex.

The Cardinals led a New Orleans group that claimed three individual titles and three team runner-up finishes.

John Curtis Christian (2A boys), St. Martin’s Episcopal (1A boys) and Patrick Taylor (Class B boys) were the New Orleans area’s runner-up finishers on the first day of the annual two-day LHSAA meet. Country Day was third in the 1A girls competition.

First Baptist Christian’s Gabrielle Jennings (Class C), Patrick Taylor’s Celia Zaeringer (Class B) and Newman’s Haley Johnson (2A) were individual champions with New Orleans area ties.

Caro said he told his girls to pass runners from the other top teams while also trying to run as close together as possible.

Newman’s Johnson won the three-mile race in 18 minutes, 25.81 seconds — the day’s best girls time.

Megan Jackson, who placed ninth (19:44.36), was the top finisher for Sacred Heart, which also put Madeline Kling (13th), Sarah Dawson (14th), Mary Nusloch (15th) and Caroline Bloemer (17th) in its scoring group.

The Cardinals finished with 68 points to finish ahead of Baton Rouge-based Episcopal (83) and 2011 champion Menard-Alexandria (87). Hammond’s St. Thomas Aquinas (119) placed fourth.

The 2A race came near the end of the day. Jennings, of Slidell-based First Baptist, vowed to finish the day’s first race, despite issues with shin splints. The freshman claimed her fifth individual title in cross country with a time of 19:29.59.

“It’s been a hard season,” Jennings said. “I’ve had trouble with my hip and shin splints. It hurt pretty bad today, but I’m not a quitter. I had to be careful because there were some curves on the course, and it hurt when I went to make the cut. I was determined to finish.”

Patrick Taylor’s Zaeringer won the Class B girls title for the second time in three years in 18:55.23.

“It was my best time of the season,” Zaeringer said. “I was quite surprised at how fast I ran. My previous best was 19:13. It (state title) means a lot.”

Two north Louisiana schools, Elizabeth in Class C and Anacoco in Class B, swept boys and girls titles.

Elizabeth scored 34 points to win the girls title and 47 to claim the boys title. Anacoco finished with 51 points to win the girls title and 66 on the boys side.

Patrick Taylor, a third-place finisher the past two seasons, claimed the runner-up trophy in the Class B boys competition with 68 points. Evan Michael (16:46.82) placed second, and Stephen Torry (16:56.52) was third for the Tigers.

St. Martin’s finished with 78 points to edge Catholic-Pointe Coupee (82) for second in the 1A boys division. Donaldsonville’s Ascension Catholic won with 29. Metairie Park Country Day’s Adam Goldberg placed third (16:39.11). St. Martin’s Ian Jenkins (eighth, 17:19.42) led runner-up St. Martin’s.

In the day’s final race, John Curtis was second to BR’s Episcopal, which claimed its 17th straight Class 2A boys title. Episcopal (35), Curtis (71) and St. Thomas Aquinas (81) were the top three finishers.

Devyn Keith led the Patriots, placing third (15:57.20) and was one of three runners to break the 16-minute barrier in the day’s fastest race.

Catholic-PC won the 1A girls title with 33 points, ahead of Ascension Catholic (67) and Country Day (77). Kathryn Fagan, who placed 11th (20:50.35) led MPCD.

The other New Orleans area competitor to garner a top 10 finisher was Jennings’ sister, Madelyn, who was second in the Class C girls race (21:36.41).