Ruston High School track and field distance specialist Caleb Babineaux celebrated his 16th birthday on Wednesday.
He did so by signing a National Letter of Intent to continue competing on the collegiate level for Mississippi College in Jackson, Mississippi, during a ceremony held at the RHS auditorium.
RHS cross country opened the proceedings by talking about what Babineaux had meant to both the Ruston cross country as well as track and field teams.
“I wanted to list all of his achievements he’s accomplished while running for Ruston, then I realized I ran out of paper,” Cochran said. “So I’ll just hit the highlights.”
Those highlights started with Cochran describing their first meeting.
“My first year here as Cross Country coach Caleb came in as a freshman and told me that he wanted to run the mile, but he said there’s no way he was going to run three miles in cross country. No way,” Cochran said.
“I was young and bull-headed and said, ‘OK,’ telling myself ‘we’re going to make you run.’ I really think his parents probably made him run more than me. But either way, he ran. And over that freshman year he went from being a guy who was in the back of our group to asking what he had to do to make the top seven because he wanted to run the state meet, and only a team’s top seven boys and girls run state meets.
“So I told him that if he wants to run state, he hadn’t really been beating people all year and that he’d really have to beat some people at the district meet and that I couldn’t give it to him if he just finished seventh by a second or two over another of our runners. I couldn’t take away someone’s spot for that. So he went out there and finished fourth that day. We got to the state meet and it was incredibly muddy. Caleb finished third for us that day and beat the state champion and showed he had something special.”
Babineaux has been part of two state champion track teams, state runner up track team and a state runner-up cross country team heading into his senior season.
“Those are trophies that hadn’t come to this school in a long time and there have been a lot of people who have put their heart and soul into getting those trophies, and Caleb Babineaux is near the top of that list,” Cochran said. “It could be argued that he’s right there at the top of the list.”
Babineaux has been part of two 3,200-meter state champion relay teams for RHS, including setting the state composite record during last season’s outdoor state title.
He’s also a three-time school record holder on RHS relay teams.
“It’s been a journey that’s helped me grow and I’m definitely for everything that everybody’s invested in me,” Babineaux said before signing the NLI with his younger brother Levi and parents Chris and Jessica Stephenson flanking him.
Babineaux, who said he plans to major in kinesiology and pursue a career in physical therapy, said he picked Mississippi because he felt comfortable with what he termed the “community of guys there.”
“I visited there and got to run with the team and hang out with them and loved the environment in doing all of that,” Babineaux said. “They just went to nationals, so I know it’s a good program.”
Babineaux will be the second Lincoln Parish athlete expected to play big roles running for the Choctaws as Mississippi College senior and Cedar Creek graduate Gabe Poulin is one of those current MC athletes Babineaux got to run with on his visit there.
“I’ve run with Gabe several times and have gotten to know him over the years,” Babineaux said. “Seeing what he’s done at Mississippi College definitely influenced my decision to go there. I hope to follow in his footsteps there.”
Babineaux said it’s the internal competition that maintains his drive as a distance runner.
“You’re running against yourself — trying to beat the last run you made. Trying to push through and run better — faster — than you ever have before. I’m always trying to improve and run a little faster than I did the last time.”
Photo: T. Scott Boatright
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