D1 Boys Clash of the 9-5A Titans Lives Up To The Hype!

Even before cross country teams from all over Louisiana descended on Natchitoches for the 2023 LHSAA State Cross Country Championships, the talk in Louisiana high school cross country circles centered around the boys' Division 1 race between rivals Jesuit and Brother Martin.

The Clash of Titans did not disappoint as Jesuit edged their cross-town rival to win their third consecutive state championship, 27-32.

Jesuit, led by Division 1 state champion Brady Mullen (14:40), had five runners in the top ten. Brother Martin, led by Noah Mooney, had four runners in top ten. Ruston's Thomas Rogers (7th:15:14) was the only runner in the top ten not wearing a Jesuit or Brother Martin singlet.

"What was going through my head during it was it's a close race," Jesuit head coach Cullen Doody said. "It was exciting. You cannot say enough good things about Brother Martin and Coach Drew (Haro). Obviously, we know their team really well. They're really nice kids. We like them and it's an honor to compete against them."

In talking to his cross country team after the race, Doody used a football analogy of a team having a letdown after a big emotional game. He grounded his runners quickly after the race, reminding them the team must shift gears quickly to prepare for the Nike Regional South in the Woodlands, Texas on Saturday. 

"I liked how we got out," Brother Martin head coach Drew Haro said of his Crusaders. "I thought we had a real nice start. We knew we needed to be in the mix early. We knew who the guys were. There were no surprises. It just came down to who could execute." 

Haro said there will be no second guessing on the Crusaders part.

"You can always look back at a race and find a few points here or there," Haro said. "We knew after district where we fell three points short that we would need some extra help, and it turned into a dual meet at the front. It gets real thin in points at that point."

Despite falling short of the goal, this Brother Martin team will be one which is always remembered by Haro.

"Look, this group that I have--these seniors in particular--they were irrelevant two years ago," Haro said. "As sophomores they bought into everything we were doing and they gave themselves a real good chance. I couldn't be prouder. I love these guys."

Coach Haro talked a little about his top finisher. 

"He is small in stature, but he is a huge competitor," Haro said of Mooney. "He just told me as we were getting ready for the trophy presentation 'coach, that was the best race of my life'. I told him he crushed it. When Brady Mullen made the move to take the lead, Noah said 'I'm going to go'. Look, he got caught at the end, but that's a great effort by the guy who caught him."

The guy who caught Mooney was Jesuit's Brady Monahan, who finished as runner-up to his teammate with a 15:01.

Mooney finished third with a time of 15:09 followed by Crusader teammates Daniel Falk (4th; 15:12.3) and Luke Regan (5th; 15:12.7). Brother Martin's other runner making the top ten was Eyan Calico (9th; 15:22)

Jesuit's other runners in the top ten included  Lucas Sampedro (6th; 15:13), Michael Vocke (8th; 15:14), and Joe Accardo (15:25).

Brother Martin's No. 5 runner was Gabriel Metoyer, who finished No. 11 with a time of 15:33.

Doody wanted Mullen to leave  a little in tank for Jesuit's next race, just five days away.

"I didn't want him to go all out today, because we wanted him to go run well on Saturday," Doody said. "He told me it was hard for him, but the first half was kind of controlled and he had to pour it on a little bit. Noah Mooney went for it. He challenged him. It probably helped us out because I think Noah got a little burned out trying to chase Brady. That was a fast back half of the race. Brady Monahan caught him so we go 1-2. That's pretty awesome."

"In the beginning, I was trying to keep it relaxed, let other people control the pace," Mullen said. "With about a mile to go I took control of the race and just kept the lead the whole time. It feels nice to win my first cross country championship. I've been competitive, but it's nice to start winning now."

And as for Jesuit's third straight state title?

"It feels great," Mullen said. "This one feels like I'm more accomplished now and proud of our team because we knew it was going to be tight and we showed grit. When it's time to compete with a promising and talented team, we can show up and win."