By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports
If the Class 2A state track and field meet runs true to form, St. Katharine Drexel’s opportunity to repeat as the team champion may depend on the result of the 400-meter dash.
Drexel Prep and Episcopal of Baton Rouge are virtually tied for first in the team standings after 15 events. The points appear to be so close that the Yellow Jackets will need to finish ahead of Episcopal in the 400 to claim the title, if times and distances hold up.
The top qualifiers in that race are Brenna Becerra of St. Thomas Aquinas, 59.69 seconds, and McGehee’s Taylor Bienvenue, 1:00.36, in the Region 3 meet.
Drexel’s Cydni Samuel (1:00.46) finished third in that region, while Episcopal’s Mary Kathryn Underwood (1:00.41) won the Region 2 meet.
If Samuel can make up .05, the Jackets would have the points they need to outscore their adversary, 67 points to 66.
Drexel Prep has the top qualifying times in the 400- 800- and 1,600-meter relays. And senior standout Alia Armstrong is the favorite in the 100- and 300-meter hurdle events. Each event is worth 10 points to the winner.
Episcopal has the potential to score 22 points in the field, while the Yellow Jackets’ numbers total 12 field points.
While Drexel battles the 2A field for a team title on May 3 at LSU’s Bernie Moore Stadium, the path to a second consecutive Class 3A girls’ first-place trophy is clear for the Academy of the Sacred Heart for the May 4 meet for classes 3, 4 and 5A schools.
The Cardinals project to score 70 points, behind their talented distance runner, Mary Nusloch. The senior has the best qualifying times in the 800-meter run (2:20.10), 1,600-meter run (5:20.61) and 3,200-meter run (11:43.87).
Her teammate Mykhala Coleman has the best throw in the 3A shot put competition of 37-101/2.
Backing Nusloch are Olivia McGoey in the 1,600-meter run and Olivia Boyd, whose 2:25.06 finish in the regional 800-meter run ranks second only to Nusloch.
The Cards also have the best time in the 3,200-meter relay, in which Nusloch is listed as the anchor.
De La Salle’s Leah Kennedy, the reigning Class 3A shotput champion, will challenge Coleman, whom she trails by nearly 3 feet. Kennedy also qualified for a spot in the javelin, thanks to an 111-10 effort in the regional meet.
Archbishop Hannan’s Victor Harvey will vie for his second gold medal in the boys’ Class 3A 800-meter run. He will try to break the 2-minute barrier, which he did in the 2018 regional meet when he ran a 1:58.8. But his qualifying time this year is 2:02.45.
Another returning gold medalist, Hunter Appleton of Brother Martin, will attempt to add another to his 3,200-meter collection. The state cross country champion has the fastest time of 9:43.63 in a field that includes Holy Cross’ Cade Martin (9:50.71), the No. 2 qualifier.
Appleton and Martin will also be in the 1,600-meter field, where they will challenge favored Allen England of Byrd High, whose 4:24.75 is nearly 4 seconds faster.
St. Augustine’s Devin Coatney will be among the top Class 5A triple jumpers, and Jesuit’s Jacob Torres (38.95) has the fastest time in the 300-meter hurdles and expects a strong challenge from St. Augustine’s Timothy Cola.
Cola will also be featured in the 110-meter hurdles against a talented field and will anchor the Purple Knights’ 800-meter relay foursome.