Live Oak qualified both its boys and girls cross country teams, along with Denham Springs’ boys, for the Nov. 19 LHSAA state cross country meet on the campus of Northwestern State in Natchitoches.
They accomplished the feat by placing in the top eight at last Friday’s 2-5A Regional Championships at Highland Road Park in Baton Rouge.
Live Oak’s boys, led by Jack Earle’s 15th place finish (16:16.53) was fifth in the team standings with 187 points followed by Denham Springs in eighth with 252 points. Walker was 11th with 293.
Meet champion Catholic High had 29 points with runners-up St. Paul next with 44.
Devin Mclendon was 25th in a time of 16:37.94) for the Eagles – automatically qualifying them individually for the state meet by virtue of their Top 25 finish.
Brennan Amato of Denham Springs also finished inside the Top 25 with a 19th place showing (16:27.25) to headline the Yellow Jackets performance.
“We had two sophomores leading us with Jack and Devin,” Live Oak coach Travis Johnson said. “The rest, as always, was the pack. We had six guys under 18 (minutes) and the seventh was 18:05. They have limited race experience, so it has been a great year for them learning to race and work together. They finished in fifth which was a surprise. We are very excited to see where this goes.”
Parker Giering (45th, 17:36.66), Jackson Bryant (48th, 17:39.03), Nathan Muralles (55th, 17:48.00), John Dyar (57th, 17:53.69) and Tommy Sigman (64th, 18:05.66) were also part of Live Oak’s fifth-place showing.
Denham Springs was also bolstered by Cole Slaby (35th, 17:07.84), Joey Aycock (56th, 17:52.88) who finished under the 18-minute mark.
Jacob Kennedy was Walker’s top finisher in 36th (17:11.47).
The Lady Eagles relied on a pair of freshmen to lead the way in Sylvia White (18th, 19:26.62) and Brooke Fontenot (25th, 20:19.12) to finish in fifth with 160 points, while Denham Springs was 12th (289).
St. Joseph’s Academy (19) captured the meet followed by Mandeville (60).
Standout sophomore runner Kylie Zeller was not able to run for Live Oak because of a lingering foot injury.
“We had Sylvia and Brooke leading the way,” Johnson said. “Our freshmen have grown so much this year. In our varsity, seven (runners) from regionals, we had three freshmen. Our team is young, so it has been so fun to watch them grow as a team.”
Junior Ava Forrest (30th, 20:52.59) and sophomore Jenna Magee (33rd, 21:16.59) were also part of the Lady Eagles’ Top 10 push along with freshman Brooklyn Crehan (55th, 23:11.31) and seniors Alaina Griffin (56th, 23:11.69) and Alexa Payne (77th, 25:07.78).
Walker, which was ninth with 235 points, was led by freshman Ava Pitarro (29th, 20:49.09), Kyra Patrick (36th, 21:35.18) and Izzy Gramling (46th, 22:13.78) with Top 50 finishes.
Kierston Wasden (37th, 21:39.15) was the top finisher for Denham Springs followed by Emily Ellis (59th, 23:22.88), Bailey Darbonne (64th, 23:32.34), Faith Mayers (67th, 24:08.94), Grace Kearley (70th, 24:30.59) and Emily Kearley (84th, 25:39.44).