MICHAEL VOCKE AND JACK DESROCHES COMPETE IN THE 2021 LHSAA STATE XC MEET
It was 7am on another sticky, late-June morning in New Orleans' City Park. Jesuit head cross country coach Cullen Doody was talking to his runners, who were stretching after their workout, about...forestry?
"Sometimes," Doody told the Jesuit runners. "You have to cut the big trees down so the smaller trees in the forest can grow. In order to grow, they have to get some of the light that those big trees get."
Since taking over the reigns of the Jesuit cross country program in the summer of 2020, his Blue Jays have learned to pull out the messages from Doody's quotes, stories, and sweeping statements.
Doody wasn't really talking about trees. He was talking the Jesuit distance group. He was talking about Jack DesRoches and Michael Vocke, the leaders of the most talented collection of high school distance runners in Louisiana history. He was--in essence-- telling his younger runners to go after the "big trees" so they can grow as well.
The "big trees"will be competing against one another in Saturday's LHSAA Class 5A State Outdoor 1600m. It will be the last high school race on Louisiana soil for Desroches.
"I'm super excited, but it's definitely a little upsetting that it will be my last," Desroches said. "Some of my most enjoyable races ever have been state races, and I'm hoping this Saturday will be similar."
One of those enjoyable races was the 3200m at the 2021 LHSAA State Outdoor Meet, where Desroches, then a sophomore, won the Class 5A 3200m (9:47.89).
JESUIT'S DESROCHES WINS HIS FIRST STATE CHAMPIONSHIP--THE '21 LHSAA 3200m
Last year, Desroches was not able to defend his 3200m title as C.E. Byrd senior Trent Wells, who had finished fourth in the 1600m earlier in the meet, was not to be denied in his final state championship race. Wells improved his personal record by 23 seconds with an incredible time of 9:17.20. DesRoches came through in second with a time of 9:21.59.
READ NEXT: Inside the LHSAA Class 5A 3200!
Symbolic of his entire career, this school year DesRoches has experienced both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
"New challenges and more setbacks than ever, but more success than ever as well," Desroches replied when asked to summarize his senior year.
The year started with Desroches winning the 2022 LHSAA Division I Boys Cross Country State Championship, leading a Jesuit team which not only had perfect score (first five runners across the line) in the LHSAA's largest division but placed two other non-scoring runners in the meet's top ten."
DESROCHES TALKS ABOUT PERFECT SCORE AT THE '22 STATE CROSS COUNTRY MEET
Desroches went from an incredible high in Natchitoches on Monday, November 14 to a miserable low at the RunningLane Championships where an illness prevented him from finishing the race that he had been pointing to all Fall.
As far as the historical implications of what Jesuit accomplished at the state cross country meet, Desroches shrugged it off as another day at the office for the Blue Jays. He is approaching these last four laps around the Bernie Moore track in the same fashion.
"Michael and I are treating this race just like any other race," DesRoches said. "Confidence and excitement without overwhelming nerves. We're both ready."
DesRoches will continue to workout and plans to compete at RunningLane Championships at the end of May. In that meet, the plan is do something out of the ordinary--running in both the 1600m and 3200m.
When the day comes and DesRoches moves on to Vanderbilt University, where he will continue his running career, DesRoches will leave behind more than teammates. He will be leaving behind friends.
"I won't only be leaving a team, but a really good group of friends," Desroches said. "I'm really going to miss the practices with them, including whatever shenanigans that entails."