Parkway head coach Kent Falting and Ruston distance coach Dustin Cochran have talked about co-hosting a Louisiana Mile Festival. The coaches finally pulled the trigger and could not be happier with the results of the inaugural meet.
It turned out to be a historic occasion as seven runners in the fast heat of the boys 1600m ran sub 4:30.
"That's never happened at a high school track meet in North Louisiana," Falting said.
Leading the pack was Ruston's Bryar Madden, who won with a state-leading 4:23.50. Following Madden were four runners (Ruston's Taylor Roller (4:24.14), Highland Baptist's Tyler Blissett (4:24.59), Ruston's Thomas Rogers (4:24.80), and Calvary's Jackson Burney (4:25.38), who all ran faster than Louisiana's previous No.1-Zachary's Rhen Langley (4:25.45)
Ruston's Lily Garrett won the fast heat of the girl's 1600m (5:19.31).
"Both of those kids have poured into the Bearcat program now for four years," Cochran said of Madden and Garrett. "They're down to a month left before they head off to college and pursue bigger goals and dreams.They've both been great through the years of making it happen when it's time to run fast and have a been a big part of Ruston's team success."
Cochran was particularly proud of Madden, who learned from some early season pacing mistakes to come away with the win.
2023 LA HS BOYS 1600m TOP 12!
LA Mile Festival1st F
LA Mile Festival2nd F
LA Mile Festival3rd F
LA Mile Festival4th F
LA Mile Festival5th F
LA Mile Festival6th F
LA Mile Festival7th F
Catholic HS Tip Off1st F
LA Mile Festival8th F
The 1600m has been a focus for Falting and his Panthers this season. Parkway had five runners run 4:37 or faster on Saturday, led by Falting's son, Gabriel Falting. The junior ran the fourth fastest time in Parkway history with a 4:26. The group of fast Panthers also included Ben Ruliffson, who set a Parkway freshman record with a 4:37.51.
Blissett--who lives in New Iberia-- was running on the Dave Anderson Track for the second time this season. The first time, he watched Taylor Roller win the 1600m (4:27.50) at the Hoss Garrett Relays last month before he won the 3200m (9:34.67) in the same meet.
Saturday, two of the best freshmen distance runners in the nation went head-to-head in the same race.
Advantage Roller, who is now ranked No. 9 in the nation after his second place effort of 4:24.14. Blissett's time (4:24.59) has his him ranked No. 10 nationally.
The Faltings weren't the only father and son coach-athlete combination at the LA Mile Festival. Blissett is coached by his father, Toby, who hasn't complained about the 205-mile drive from New Iberia to Ruston.
"We talked early in the season and decided that we would gladly take fast losses over slow wins," Toby Blissett said.
With most of his Yellow Jackets participating in the Raider Relays at Shreveport's Lee Hedges Stadium on Saturday, Byrd coach Juan Plaza decided to stay with his younger athletes. When he received word of the results in Ruston, Plaza began spreading the "big news" about Byrd junior Hudson Roberts, who finished second with a huge personal record of 5:23.59.
"This (LA Mile Festival) has been something me and Kent have wanted to do for a while and we finally had a reason to get it started," Cochran said. "We just want to see it grow and keep giving kids opportunities to run really fast before championship season starts and everyone goes tactical."
Both Cochran and Falting plan to keep the Louisiana Mile Festival on the same weekend next year, and hope to bring in "the best runners from all over."