Jesuit head cross country coach Cullen Doody is excited to begin his fourth season with the Blue Jays as the No. 3 ranked team in the nation prepares to open the 2023 season this Saturday in Huntsville, AL at the Southern Showcase.
It's the third year in a row Jesuit has opened their season at the Southern Showcase, where they are the defending champion after scoring 70 points a year ago. The Blue Jays were led by junior Brady Mullen, who finished seventh with a time of 15:08.
"Honestly, I think it's the best cross country course in America," Doody said. "It's beautiful. It's a great opportunity for our team and one which is not available locally. The weather is usually better there this time of year than it is in New Orleans."
The current forecast is showing it will be partly cloudy and the temperature will be 68 degrees when the Blue Jays run at 8am on Saturday morning. There is a 40% chance at rain, which is forecasted to fall around noon.
Doody is taking 25 runners to the Southern Showcase. It's a group, Doody says, which represents the present and the future of the Jesuit cross country program.
"It's a different team this year," Doody said. "We lost several runners to graduation. We have new kids. New personalities."
What hasn't changed is the coach's expectations and the team's work ethic which allowed the Jesuit program to reap the benefits of becoming the best cross country team in Louisiana history after a perfect score at the LHSAA Division I State Championships in Natchitoches last November.
"They have worked hard and have done everything we have asked them," Doody said. "For the ones who are healthy, I'm excited to see what they can do on this stage."
Unfortunately for Doody and some of his runners, there has been a sickness going around the school which may cause Doody to leave a few runners at home.
Saturday's Southern Showcase will be the first time this month he has watched his team race. The last time out was a time trial on Saturday, August 26.
"I was happy with where we are at," Doody said of the time trial. "It is hard to compare to last year when it was wet and soggy. This year, the course was dry and hot. We had four guys run faster than our fastest guy a year ago so that is encouraging."
The results and national rankings aren't the only things that have changed since Doody took over the program in the summer of 2020. The coach has evolved as well.
"I had never coached anything," Doody said. "As a runner in college, I had a sense about training, but coaching is not training and training is not coaching. Our training philosophy has evolved, but so has the focus on turning boys into men. When they leave the program, I want them to have a certain level of maturity."
Jesuit will see some familiar faces as Brother Martin, who finished second to Jesuit at the LHSAA Division I State Cross Country Championships will also be competing in the Southern Showcase.
It will be Brother Martin's second trip to Alabama this year. The Crusaders opened their season with a dominant win at the Mobile Challenge of Champions. Coach Drew Haro's team was led by senior Gabriel Metoyer, who finished with a time of 16:05.
All five of Brother Martin's scoring runners were in the meet's top ten as the Crusader's average time was 16:29, over half a minute better than their closest competitor-UMS-Wright.