Story and Photos By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports
Neither inclement weather nor an elite field of athletes could overcome what a pair of local Catholic school seniors had in store for them.
Mary Nusloch of the Academy of the Sacred Heart and Hunter Appleton of Brother Martin showed why they are in a class by themselves at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Outdoor Track and Field championship meet on May 4, run at LSU’s Bernie Moore Stadium.
No one ever questions the two seniors’ credentials as distance runners. Both are recipients of the Gatorade Louisiana Cross Country Runner of 2018-19 and are multiple state champions whether competing indoors or outdoors.
Appleton, bound for the University of Colorado (Boulder), repeated as The Class 5A boys’ 3,200-meter champion by completing the eight-lap event in 9:51.20. But he even shocked himself by winning the gold medal in the 1,600-meter run over the top qualifier, Fontainebleau’s Marshall Buhler.
In a near dead heat, Appleton won by a nose. He was clocked in 4:21.81. Buhler, whom he had never beaten, crossed the line in 4:21.82. Appleton’s time far exceeded his previous best of 4:28.04 in the Region III-5A meet a week before.
He defeated Buhler again by a comfortable margin in the 3,200, an event that also featured two other premier Catholic school runners, his Brother Martin teammate Cade Litolff (9:41.22), and Holy Cross’ Cade Martin (9:51.59), who finished third and fifth, respectively.
Then there was Nusloch, a Rhodes College signee who logged 6,400 meters by circling the Bernie Moore track 16 times to lead the Cardinals to their second consecutive Class 3A team championship. Behind her mecurial performance, Sacred Heart totaled 75 points, 15 more than second-place Brusly.
First, she ran a leg on the Cardinals’ 3,200-meter relay team that won in 9:51.03. Then, there was the 1,600-meter run, which she completed in 5:11.39 for her second of four gold medals.
Nusloch followed that with a victory in the 800-meter run (2:20.56) ahead of teammate Olivia Boyd, then capped her busy day by winning her specialty, the 3,200-meter run in 11:36.70.
Drexel falls short of goal
It was obvious that the two best teams in the Class 2A championship meet for girls, run on May 3, were Episcopal and St. Katharine Drexel Prep, the defending champion.
On paper, the two were separated by a mere two points. A change of position in any of the five races that matched the two teams would have flipped the points total to either team.
While all eyes were on Drexel Prep’s Alia Armstrong
as she set composite records in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles and anchored the Yellow Jackets’ victorious 800-meter relay team, one key runner was unable to compete.
Kayli Johnson’s unfortunate absence in the triple jump, 400-meter relay and 100-meter hurdles, in which she had recorded the second-fastest time of 15.52, enabled Episcopal to claim the trophy. The Baton Rouge school scored 63 points. Drexel Prep totaled 56.
But Armstrong was the star of the day. Her 100-meter hurdles time of 13.39 broke her previous best time of 14.11 and erased the composite meet record time of 13.75 set by Buckeye’s Kayle Blood in 2008.
The LSU signee was just as smooth and swift gliding over hurdles in the 300-meter race. Her winning time of 42.60 rubbed out the composite mark of 42.63 and her regional qualifying time of 43.87.
Cydni Samuel contributed to the Yellow Jackets’ points by finishing third in the Class 2A long jump and 400-meter dash.
A track & field first
Because of impending inclement weather, the LHSAA and LSU officials decided to play it safe by staging four field events, short sprints and hurdles in the adjacent Carl Maddox Field House, the site of the state indoor championship meet.
For safety reasons, the discus and javelin throws remained outdoor events.
Fortunately, the heavy rain that swept through Baton Rouge ended during the early afternoon, and all running events took place outdoors.
Several track and field purists objected to the LHSAA deciding to record all distances and heights under the Maddox roof as “outdoor” marks.
The meet director also altered the format for the start of the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs on the nine-lane track.
Because the final day of the three-day event included three classes for teams and athletes, they decided the finalists from Class 3A would line up in lanes 1-3, the top qualifiers from 4A in lanes 4-6, and the 5A runners in lanes 7-9 in a staggered start.
Although the timer had to sort through 27 runners in three classes to determine the top finishers, it reduced the time of the meet.
Gold medal efforts
Four other athletes from the Archdiocese of New Orleans brought home gold medals. They included two returning state champions.
Victor Harvey of Archbishop Hannan and future runner for Southeastern Louisiana University, won his second 800-meter run in 1:58.76. He ran a 1:58.80 last year.
De La Salle’s Leah Kennedy the reigning Class 3A shotput champion, bettered her 2018 winning throw of 37-5 1/2 with a slightly better toss of 37-7. Kennedy also placed third in the javelin throw.
St. Augustine’s Christopher Confident surprised the boys Class 5A discus field with a winning throw of 149 feet, 8 inches. Confident was the last qualifier in the field of nine with a throw of just 129-6 in the Region III meet.
Mount Carmel’s Hope Shales won the 3,200-meter run in 11:33.07.