Pack Attack: Jesuit Cross Country Captures State Title
Twenty seven seconds.
The vaunted pack running of the Jesuit cross country team—seniors Matthews Vargas, Patrick LaCour, Michael Schwing and Ben D’Antonio, along with juniors Carlos Zervigon and John James and sophomore Eli Sisung—was never more formidable than it was on the biggest of stages on Tuesday, Nov. 18 at the state cross country meet on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, where a mere 27 seconds separated the Jays’ seven runners.
As many predicted, the Blue Jays didn’t place a single runner in the Top Ten. Parkway’s Hayden Kingfisher, running in mild temperatures under sunny skies, took the individual honors with a time of 15:35 on the three-mile course.
But it wasn’t individual glory the Jays were after. It was a team title. And they got it.
Jesuit finished with 85 points to edge district rival Brother Martin (98), Catholic High (102) and St. Paul’s (109).
“This is about as close as it gets,” said Coach Rudy Horvath ’86. “We had four great teams out there slugging it out.”
“Our guys, to a man, rose to the occasion,” Horvath continued. “There are so many little things I can point to as difference makers out there today. Coaches talk about team wins so much it has become a cliché, but it was never truer than it was today.”
Vargas posted the team’s best time of the day (16:26), placing 11th overall in a field of 334 racers representing 47 schools. It was the first time all year that Vargas led the Blue Jay pack in a race.
Right on his heels was Sisung, who placed 14th overall with a time of 16:34. Sisung accounted for four points of the differential with Brother Martin in the final stretch by chasing down three runners, including Brother Martin’s Mason Williams. “Normally, I start my kick at around 500 meters,” said Sisung. But I didn’t have a lot left so I waited a bit longer. At about 150 meters, I figured it was now or never. Fortunately, when I made my move no one followed.”
Also figuring in the scoring for the Jays were LaCour (19th, 16:36), Zervigon (20th, 16:41), and Schwing (21st 16:43).
There were about ten minutes of suspense at the track as coaches awaited the official results. “I knew we were close,” said Horvath. “But I literally didn’t know for sure until the team was called out to the field. And even then, all I knew was that we were either first or second.”
Jesuit’s winning score of 85 points was tallied by adding the finishes of its top five runners (11 plus 14 plus 19 plus 20 plus 21).
Seasoned cross country observers, however, are well aware that the sixth and seventh runners are also critical at state. If they can finish ahead of another team’s top five runners, it inflates the opponent’s team score. Sure enough, D’Antonio (29th, 16:50) and James (33rd, 16:53) inflicted some damage to the scores of Brother Martin, Catholic, and St. Paul’s.
Also on Tuesday, three Jesuit runners (seniors Garth Cook, Cole Guillory, and Patrick LaCour) were recognized as LHSAA All-Academic Scholar-Athletes.
The team title is Jesuit’s first in cross country since 2010 and the first for Horvath, who replaced Peter Kernion ’90 upon his appointment to principal. Horvath is assisted by Scott Thompson and Nick Asprodites ’02.