For fans of high school cross country, 2022 has been a season to remember. The LHSAA has rearranged the distribution of schools from seven classifications to five divisions, determined by school size and enrollment. Because of this change, there was a completely blank slate for new division records in both team finishes and individual times. Additionally, all of the races took place on the same day, a change from the usual 2-day event in Nachitoches, Louisiana. With an already rain-soaked course and incoming inclement weather on the day of the meet, the course and the weather provided unique challenges for each race. The first competitors had partly cloudy skies and cool temperatures, and the last had rain and well-trampled terrain.
For the first time ever, each team had to qualify through a regional championship meet, which limited teams to the top 8 in each region, and individual runners had to finish in the top 25 at the regional meet to qualify to run independently at state. Despite the stated intent of the divisional changes and regional meets, there was still a great degree of variability in the competition between the different regions.
Take a look at what it took to qualify as an indivual in our regional races (the New Orleans Metro Area is Region 3):
Division 1 Boys: 17:36.59 Division 1 Girls: 23:02.49
Division 2 Boys: 19:27.47 Division 2 Girls: 26:48.29
Division 3 Boys: 19:12.79 Division 3 Girls: 24:00.20
Division 4 Boys: 17:48.40 Division 4 Girls: 21:06.70
Division 5 Boys: none in our region Division 5 Girls: none in our region
With nationally ranked performances on both the girls and boys side throughout the season, and a completely new set of composite and state records to be set within the new organizational system, we thought it would be fun to take a look at how the New Orleans Metropolitan area teams stacked up against those in their divisions, and against one another.
First, the following schools qualified through their respective regional championship meets, and fielded teams at the state meet:
Jesuit - Divison 1
Brother Martin - Division 1
Holy Cross - Division 2
Belle Chasse - Division 2
Isidore Newman - Division 3
Archbishop Shaw - Divsion 2
Metairie Park Country Day - Division 4
St. Martin's Episcopal - Division 4
John Curtis - Division 3
Haynes Academy - Division 3
The Willow School - Division 2
De La Salle - Division 3
Patrick Taylor - Division 3
New Orleans Maritime + Military - Division 2
Helen Cox - Division 2
Morris Jeff Community School - Division 3
Mount Carnel Academy - Division 1
Academy of the Sacred Heart - Division 2
St. Mary's Dominican - Division 1
Metairie Park Country Day - Division 4
Isidore Newman School- Division 3
St. Martin's Episcopal School - Division 4
Louise S. McGehee School - Division 4
Ursuline Academy - Division 3
Chapelle - Divsion 2
Cabrini -Division 3
Belle Chasse - Division 2
Haynes Academy - Division 3
Patrick Taylor Academy - Division 3
The New Orleans Metro area produced a handful of athletes that qualified as individuals for the state meet, including Julian Campos from Kenner Discovery, Alistair Deng, Luke Mipro, Jason Decuir and Dale Baham from Ben Franklin and Jaiver Ico Pop from SciHigh. On the girl’s side Miley Percle from John Curtis and Lou Didelot from Ben Franklin, as well as both Tianna Haten and Janessa Cheatham from George Washington Carver qualified as individuals.
Using a variety of data, including number of athletes in the top ten finishers, team finish standings, average pace, 1-5 runner spread times and school size, two local girls teams stood out from the rest. Metairie Park Country Day and the Academy of the Sacred Heart each placed two runners in the top ten (Raine and Coco Goldenberg for the Cajuns and Leah Varsico and Courtney Habetz for the Cardinals), each team collectively finished as state runner’s up in their division. There are arguments to be had for both in terms of which state performance would be considered the strongest – Sacred Heart’s average pace was the quickest, but as a large D2 school they’re pulling from a larger pool of athletes than the D4 Country Day girls. Sacred Heart went into the state meet knowing they were contending for a podium finish, but Country Day only entered that conversation as a D4 team late in the season. Both teams turned in impressive performances in several regards, but Sacred Heart may deserve a slight nod for their comparatively stronger showing from their 6-7 runners.
Mount Carmel Academy and Isidore Newman School’s girls teams both finished just off the podium in third, with Mount Carmel placing two runners (Catalina Reichard and Stella Junius) in their division’s top ten and Newman’s Maggie Smith was also in that number in the D3 race.
On the boys side, no such comparative analysis was necessary. In a season that saw the Jesuit High School varsity team ranked as the number one team in the nation, the boys team dominated all of the categories used to analyze the girls, in addition scoring a coveted perfect score of 15 at the state meet, and placing all seven runners in the top ten. As the Blue Jays look forward to running at the Garmin Running Lane national championship next weekend in Birmingham, we’ll revisit their season when those results are also available.
Jesuit’s historic season aside, Brother Martin and coach Drew Haro deserve a lot of credit for putting together a highly competitive team that would have been clear contenders for a title in many years past. It will be exciting to watch this team develop over the next few years, and Holy Cross also placed as state runner’s up as a team with 6 out of their top 7 returning next year.
Before I get to the raw data, here’s a primer for those unfamiliar with how cross country meets are scored, and what it takes to place well as a team
Team makeup – A varsity cross country team is usually made up of seven runners. The top five runners are the “scoring” members and the remaining two have the important job of displacing the scorers on opposing teams. Only the varsity level is limited to seven competitors in a race, the other levels usually have unlimited entries.
Levels of competition – There are two levels (varsity and junior varsity) in most high school invitational cross country races. Each level competes in its own race and is scored separately. It is not uncommon for the junior varsity race to include both genders running simultaneously but competing for separate results/scores. In Dual or Tri meets, all athletes of the same gender compete in a single race.
Scoring – Races are scored by assigning a point value for the place a runner finishes in. If a runner finishes first, he/she will earn 1 point. Finishing 55th would usually earn 55 points. Cross country is similar to golf in that the lowest score wins. A perfect score is 15 points, with the top five runners occupying the first five finishing positions.
- While only the top 5 runners “score” for their team, the sixth and seventh placed runners also receive a score. Their points can be valuable since they may increase the score of an opposing team by placing in front of that team’s top five runners. The score of the sixth and seventh runners might also be used for tie breaking.
- Runners who do not have a team of at least five runners are removed from the results for scoring purposes.
- If a meet allows more than seven runners in a race, the runners that placed eight or higher within their team are removed from the results for scoring purposes.
- In the event of a tie between two or more teams, the place of the sixth place runners are compared. If only one team has a sixth runner then that team wins. If all teams have only five runners, then the score of the top 4 runners is used.
Race length – Almost all races in LA are approximately 3 miles. A race length of 5 kilometers is common in other locations around the country. Not all courses are precisely measured. Courses are more or less difficult due to terrain differences. A course that is possibly short or has a fairly easy profile is frequently known as a “PR course”.
Because foot races provide quantifiable results, it is fairly easy to understand what it takes to place well as an individual. First, the ability to run fast is key. Second, the ability to strategize based on a given course and other competitor’s racing styles can garner higher placement than simply going out and running as hard as possible for the duration of the race. Coaches work with athletes on strategy depending on their individual goals for a race or a seasonal goal. Some of the tactics commonly employed include:
Kick The sprint at the end of a race. Runners all have different abilities to kick.
Negative Split Running the second half of a race faster than the first half. This is generally considered to be a good thing and most PRs involve negative splits.
Surge A short burst of speed during a race. Used to change rhythm or break the competition.
On the other hand, the tactics employed as a team in order to place well as a unit at a meet involve a bit more cooperative effort, using the strengths of your teammates to engender the best possible outcome from each runner. Some of the tactics used at the championship level for a team aiming for a podium finish include:
Top 5 Spread the time difference between a team’s first place and their fifth place runner. A small Top 5 spread is taken to be a sign of team strength and cohesion.
Pack up When a group of runners (often from the same team) run together for a portion of the race.
On to the direct data from the LHSAA 2022 Cross Country State Championship Meet:
Metro Area Boys Team Results, Average Pace:
Jesuit : 15:02 average pace
Brother Martin: 15:46 average pace
Holy Cross: 16:49 average pace
Belle Chasse: 17:22 average pace
Isidore Newman: 17:26 average pace
Archbishop Shaw: 17:57 average pace
Metairie Park Country Day: 18:02 average pace
St. Martin's Episcopal: 18:07 average pace
John Curtis: 18:34 average pace
Haynes Academy: 18:43 average pace
The Willow School: 18:48 average pace
De La Salle: 19:18 average pace
Patrick Taylor 19:52 average pace
New Orleans Maritime + Military: 20:20 average pace
Helen Cox: 20:22 average pace
Morris Jeff Community School: 21:55 average pace
Metro Area Girls Team Results, Average Pace:
Mount Carnel Academy: 19:27 average pace
Academy of the Sacred Heart: 20:12 average pace
St. Mary's Dominican: 20:25 average pace
Metairie Park Country Day: 20:44 average pace
Isidore Newman School: 20:56 average pace
St. Martin's Episcopal School: 21:21 average pace
Louise S. McGehee School: 21:50 average pace
Belle Chasse: 22:49 average pace
Ursuline Academy: 23:48 average pace
Cabrini: 24:29 average pace
Chapelle: 24:31 average pace
Haynes Academy: 25:18 average pace
Patrick Taylor Academy: 25:47 average pace
Metro Area Boys Team Results, 1-5 split
Jesuit : :25 1-5 split
The Willow School: :51 1-5 split
Brother Martin: :52 1-5 split
John Curtis: :56 1-5 split
Patrick Taylor 1:13 1-5 split
St. Martin's Episcopal: 1:19 1-5 split
Belle Chasse: 1:22 1-5 split
Holy Cross: 1:23 1-5 split
Metairie Park Country Day: 1:23 1-5 split
Isidore Newman: 1:40 1-5 split
Haynes Academy: 1:47 1-5 split
Morris Jeff Community School: 2:09 1-5 split
De La Salle: 2:19 1-5 split
Helen Cox: 2:20 1-5 split
Archbishop Shaw: 2:28 1-5 split
New Orleans Maritime + Military: 2:45 1-5 split
Metro Area Girls Team Results, 1-5 split:
Louise S. McGehee School: :51 1-5 split
Patrick Taylor Academy: 1:31 1-5 split
Academy of the Sacred Heart: 1:34 1-5 split
Isidore Newman School: 1:40 1-5 split
St. Martin's Episcopal School: 1:40 1-5 split
Metairie Park Country Day: 1:46 1-5 split
St. Mary's Dominican: 2:10 1-5 split
Mount Carmel Academy: 2:11 1-5 split
Belle Chasse: 3:22 1-5 split
Cabrini: 3:23 1-5 split
Chapelle: 4:39 1-5 split
Haynes Academy: 4:41 1-5 split
Ursuline Academy: 6:25 1-5 split
Metro Area Boys Team Results, Top Ten finishers
Jesuit (D1) : 7 top 10 finishers
Holy Cross (D2) : 3 top 10 finishers
Brother Martin (D1) : 1 top 10 finisher
Metro Area Girls Team Results, Top Ten finishers
Mt. Carmel (D1): 2 top 10 finishers
Metairie Park Country Day (D4): 2 top 10 finishers
Academy of the Sacred Heart (D2): 2 top 10 finishers
Isidore Newman School (D3): 1 top 10 finisher
Metro Aread Girls Individual Results, by time
|De la Cruz||Marygrace||Country Day||21:10.90||D4|
Metro Area Boys Individual Results, by time
|Brown||Dylan||De La Salle||17:53.40||D3|
|Van Halen||Emile||John Curtis||18:21.70||D3|
|Liles||Amos||The WIllow School||18:26.60||D2|
|Tillero||Alexander||The WIllow School||18:26.60||D2|
|Darensbourg||Bryce||The WIllow School||18:35.00||D2|
|Rachal||Dylan||N.O Military and Maritime||18:49.50||D2|
|Laroche||Austin||N.O Military and Maritime||19:00.70||D2|
|Folse||Avery||Patrick Taylor Academy||19:08.00||D3|
|Clement||Noah||De La Salle||19:16.70||D3|
|Kruebbe||Kella||The WIllow School||19:18.00||D2|
|Andrews||Keith||The WIllow School||19:18.10||D2|
|Pop||Jaiver Ico||Patrick Taylor Academy||19:22.20||D3|
|Parulan||Caleb||De La Salle||19:28.10||D3|
|Boulmay||Alexander||Patrick Taylor Academy||19:29.90||D3|
|Emmett||John William||Country Day||19:36.00||D4|
|Norris, Jr||Revius||Helen Cox||19:38.10||D2|
|McGhee||Jermaine||De La Salle||19:39.20||D3|
|Loo||Kai||Patrick Taylor Academy||20:09.70||D3|
|Kawahara||Katsumasa||Patrick Taylor Academy||20:12.60||D3|
|Williams||Ronard||De La Salle||20:12.70||D3|
|Laurence||Timmothy-Owen||The WIllow School||20:14.20||D2|
|Prados||Anthony||De La Salle||20:14.50||D3|
|Hubbard-Dunn||Joaquin||The WIllow School||20:20.50||D2|
|Cortes||Carlos||Patrick Taylor Academy||20:21.90||D3|
|Lewis||Caleb||Morris Jeff Community School||20:33.60||D3|
|Schneider||Ian||Patrick Taylor Academy||20:35.90||D3|
|Zajur||Raul||N.O Military and Maritime||20:58.40||D2|
|Smith||Matthew||De La Salle||21:12.40||D3|
|de Baron||Matthew||Patrick Taylor Academy||21:18.30||D3|
|Warner||Reagan||N.O Military and Maritime||21:19.90||D2|
|Hamdy||Adam||N.O Military and Maritime||21:34.50||D2|
|Jeansonne||Jonah||Morris Jeff Community School||21:42.40||D3|
|Ashton||Becket||Morris Jeff Community School||22:00.00||D3|
|Pierre||Winston||Morris Jeff Community School||22:39.60||D3|
|Yates||Tristan||Morris Jeff Community School||22:42.80||D3|
|Daspit||Elijah||Morris Jeff Community School||23:23.00||D3|
|Monfano||Ari||Morris Jeff Community School||23:43.60||D3|
With many of the most competitive teams returning some of their top seven athletes next season, and a sea of talented middle school runners moving up, Louisiana cross country will be something to look forward to next fall.
For now, get out your stopwatches and padded seats, because we're heading into indoor track season, which will host some familar names and faces, but also introduce sprinters and field athletes we don't see much of during fall sports.