The Ruston track and field program has many traditions, but one of the most special is leaving their meeting room at L.J. "Hoss" Garrett Stadium and walking out of the back gate, across the street, to Greenwood Cemetery. There-on the day of the "Hoss" Garrett Relays, they gather around the memorial of the legendary coach the stadium and the meet are named after.
Standing around the tombstone, Ruston seniors take turns talking about what it has meant to them to be a part of the Ruston track and field program, what it means to be a Ruston Bearcat, and remembering those--like Coach Garrett--who laid the foundation.
Former Ruston Head Coach Dave Anderson, who now has his name on the track and field complex, went to the Garrett Family thirty years ago and asked them for permission to name the meet after their father. They were honored.
Bryar Madden has heard the seniors before him. Bearcat distance running greats like Caleb Babineaux last year and Dyllon Nimmers the year before. Saturday morning it was his turn to speak.
"When we go there all of the seniors have to talk and tell about our journey," Madden said. "How far this place has taken me and getting me to college. Oh, I have loved it. I couldn't see my life without it. It's amazing."
But actions speak louder than words and Madden's words didn't carry as much weight as the effort he demonstrated in winning the 800m with a time of 1:56.05. Only one other runner in the state of Louisiana-Zachary's Rhen Langley-has run faster this season.
"The game plan was to go to the front and stay in the front," Madden said. "Shout out to that kid who pushed me. It got really good at the end. I had to dive."
That "kid" is Loyola's Tripp Roemer, who looked like a grown man as he closed on Madden and moved out to lane two with five meters left in the race with hopes of passing Madden.
Madden did everything in his power to prevent Roemer from beating him. Furiously nodding his head, flailing his right arm over in lane two making contact with Roemer just before the finish, and--finally--a dive-and-roll across the finish line.
Even then it was tough for Dwain McDuffie, with McDuffie Timing, to study the picture to determine the winner. The picture on his laptop showed the finish line going through the neck of both runners. But it was Madden's dive-and-roll which put his torso across the line in front of Roemer, who finished with a 1:56.06 and a No. 3 ranking in Louisiana.
The 800m race highlighted the meet which saw host Ruston sweep both the boys and girls divisions. The Bearcats scored 169 points, 37 points more than runner-up Airline. The Lady Bearcats scored 156 points, 32 points ahead of second place Neville.
For some Bearcats- like freshman Taylor Roller-it was their first team trip to Greenwood Cemetery to pay respect to Coach Garrett and listen to the Ruston T&F seniors.
Roller had a memorable first "Hoss" Garrett lowering his personal record in the 1600m by ten seconds with a 4:27.50.
"We had great competition today," Roller said. "When coach (Cochran) gave me the cue, I went. Trusted my training. Trusted him. I gave it my all."
Like Madden, Roller's time is the No. 2 in Louisiana. Nationally, it ranks as the No. 19 in the US among all high school freshmen.
As well as things were going on the track, they were even better at the jumps where Logan Malone won the long jump (21-8) on his final jump and returned to win the triple jump (41-9)by one inch over his teammate Ray Owens.
Lady Bearcat Faith Miller did the same thing in the girls' horizontal jumps, winning both the long jump (17-4.5) and the triple jump (36-1).
Other Ruston High School winners in the girls' division included Zoie Holstead in the 1600m (5:31.81), Lily Garrett in the 800m (2:20.64), freshman T'Avion Clark in the 400m (1:01.90), and Parker Nations in the 3200m (12:06.05).
Ruston's Dylar Richmond was the only other winner in the boys' division with a 39.82 in the 300 hurdles, but the Bearcats swept all four relays, including a 41.96 by the 4x100.
Ruston didn't have a monopoly on special performances.
"Hoss" Garrett coached LSU and Baltimore Colt quarterback Bert Jones, who went on to become known as the "Ruston Rifle," but there is another Jones in Ruston (no relation)-and Cedar Creek's Annie Jones may steal the nickname after winning the last year's Class 1A state championship in the javelin as a junior with a throw of 115-3.
Saturday, Jones, a senior, overcame a soft, muddy runway to win the javelin with a throw of 102-5.
Neville's Joshua Qualls got a hug and a kiss from his teary-eyed mother after the shot put. It was tears of joy after her son won the shot put with a 50-0.5, breaking the school record by his coach-Courtney Wallace, who watched the embrace of mom and son after the competition.
Highland Baptist freshman Tyler Blissett was a long way from his home in New Iberia, but when you want to run fast you have to be flexible and pick your spots. Blissett, and his father, who is also his coach, drove up to Ruston after Tyler's Saturday morning driver's ed class.
Blissett won the 3200m with a 9:37.67. The time ranks No. 4 in the state among all classes. Nationally, the mark is currently No. 7 among all freshmen in the nation.
Nobody had more wins on Saturday than Airline's Jeremiah Boudreaux. The junior won the 110m hurdles (15.09), high jump (6-4), and equalled his personal record-and state-leading time of 21.54 in the 200m. He also ran a leg on the Viking 4x200m relay, which finished second with a 1:28.82.
In the girls' division, Simsboro's Ikeia Brown had the highest point total. She won both the 100m hurdles (15.89) and 300 hurdles (48.38). She finished second in the high jump (4-10) and fourth in the 100m (13.00).