"I told you so."

That was the first thing Louise S. McGehee's Robert Pearson told his girls after they won the school's first-ever LHSAA Class 1A state outdoor championship in track and field on Thursday, May 4th.

Throughout the season, Pearson told the team they would have a shot to win it all at Bernie Moore, but they did not believe him until Nadia Jones crossed, the anchor on the 4x400, crossed the finish line and the team made their way to the podium to accept the championship trophy. 

For his efforts, Pearson made the ballot for MileSplit LA Girls' Coach of the Year and friends, family, and supporters of the program did the rest. 

"It's a joy," Pearson said of the honor. "But it's probably different than what you might think. Anything that gives light to my girls. Anything that brings awareness to the girls in our program and our school-it makes me very happy."

Usually, coaches need star power or depth to win a state championship. Pearson had both.

Kali Magana, in her first year of competing for McGehee, provided the star power-winning the 100m (12.15), 200m (24.59), and 800m (2:20.53). But it was the gold medal Magana received in the 4x200, which meant the most to her. The team ran a 1:42.93. 

Pearson also had athletes who exceeded expectations-- like Songoli Dennar, an eighth grader who finished fourth in the 200m (26.38). 

"When she did that," Pearson said. "That's really when I knew we would come away with the title. I knew our girls in the 3200 were go to take care of business."

Adler Rosenthal and Julia Mahfouz did take care of business in the 3200m. Rosenthal, a freshmen, finished fourth (13:05) and Mahfouz, an eighth grader, finished sixth (13:18). 

Before the year ever started, Pearson had a feeling it was going to be a special season. The workouts and training started well before Pearson was finished with his duties at head basketball coach. He leaned on his assistant coaches- Bayley Romig, Jack Adler, and Carolyn Thompson-for help.

"I cannot say enough about he job my assistant coaches did this year," Pearson said. "All of this wouldn't have been possible without them."

Did everything go according to planned in his first year as head coach?

"Of course it didn't," Pearson said. "We knew we had talent so we started earlier than normal. We had the workouts down to a science. We had some injuries and had to make adjustments on the fly. There were injuries and other obstacles, but we adjusted and moved on."

Pearson's journey in track and field began in high school where he was coached by the legendary, hall of fame coach Pete Boudreaux.

"He is one of a kind," Pearson said. "That man had us doing everything. Yes, he was teaching us about the events we were in, but he was also grooming us to love the sport."

Pearson hopes to have the same kind of impact on his athletes that Pete Boudreaux had on his.

"The culture is built on 100% effort," Pearson said. "Whether it's on the court or track--or in the classroom. To get them to buy in and be fully committed to the task at hand and go after it. If they don't learn anything else, I hope they learn that. That is something that transfers to their life after athletics."