SJA Takes Home 8th Straight State Championship!

The more things change, the more they stay the same. While T-shirts to the winning team and drones flying overhead at the LHSAA State Cross Country Championships may be new, St. Joseph's Academy leaving Natchitoches with the first place trophy is becoming old hat.

The SJA girls won their eighth straight LHSAA Divison 1 Girls' State Cross Country Championship. The Stickers were led by Grace Rennhoff, who finished third with a time of 17:59.

The Stickers held off Mt. Carmel, who was led by state champion Catalina Reichard who finished with a time of 17:28, 51-63. Baton Rouge's Lucy Thomas was the runner up in the division with a time of 17:52.

"It was pretty rough," Reichard said. "Usually, I have a little more energy toward the end. I had to really push. I had great competition so I'm really grateful for that. This is a rough course. It tests you mentally and physically and that last hill really gets you. I'm really grateful to be out here." 

Other SJA runners in the top ten were Michelle Daigle (5th: 18:14) and Elise Brown (6th; 18:20). The Stickers No. 4 and No. 5 runners were Hannah Vaughan (16th; 19:12) and  Charolette Beck (25th; 19:48).

"The plan was actually their plan that they came up with," St. Joseph's head coach Mark LaHaye said. "It didn't go according to plan. I think Grace kind of surprised everybody when she took the lead and kept it. We were hoping Hannah would stay a little closer. She still held her own. I thought Kaitlyn Francise would be our No.5 and our freshman Charlotte Beck was No. 5. It really worked out well."

Rennhoff was in fourth place for most of the latter part of the race, but made a push and passed C.E. Byrd's Jenna Key (18:05) just before entering the track.

"It was really just before we got on the track," Rennhoff said of her move into third place. "The whole team and everyone just cheering. It was just the whole environment that helps and Jenna is a great competitor." 

LaHaye said each runner has their own, unique personality. 

"She is so calm and cool and collected," LaHayes said of Rennhoff. "It just rolls right off her shoulders. Brown is one who gets a little stressed out. Daigle is just so competitive. She is ready to get it."

Daigle, Beck, and Francise will return to Natchitoches next year to try to make it nine in a row for the Stickers. 

"We're going to have to work hard," LaHaye said. "We lose five of the top seven. I told the girls, I just talked to Mt. Carmel's Coach Kaiser. They're not losing anybody." 

Other runners finishing in the top ten in the Division 1 Girs' race included Baton Rouge's Natalie Venkataraman (7th; 18:27), Southside's Jaci Gary (8th; 18:39), Ruston's Parker Nations (9th; 18:43), and Mt. Carmel's Stella Junius (18:53).