RHS T&F shines at Last Chance

By T. Scott Boatright


Preparing for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Indoor State meet over the weekend, Ruston High School track and field athletes competed at the Last Chance High School Qualifier at LSU.

And it’s safe to say that a number of those RHS athletes made the most of their final opportunity to qualify for that state indoor championship meet that will be held on Feb. 19. The top 16 athletes in each event qualify for the state championship meet.

One of those was junior Ean Outley, with an 11th place finish in the pole vault.

 “He didn’t qualify at the LSU Qualifier but then came in with a lifetime best at the Last Chance meet with more than 12 feet in the pole vault, which put him at fifth best in the state,” said RHS coach Allen Whitaker. “That came out of nowhere, but we’ve seen it coming in practice. He just put it in at the right time.”

Outley wasn’t the only Bearcat who set personal records (PR), if not more.

“Bryana Craig broke the state record in the high jump at 5-9 3/4,” Whitaker said. “That put her at No. 2 in the nation. She also ran the 400m and ran a lifetime best of 57.21. That was a big PR for her.

“She had a lot of lactic acid build up in her legs on that first record, and she goes out an hour later and set the record in the high jump. That’s remarkable to come off the record in the 400m and go back and do it again in the high jump not much later. That’s a testament to her heart and will.”

Both of Ruston’s 3,000m relay teams turned in strong showings.

“Our boys (Andrew McKaskle, Nelson Blackburn, Caleb Babineaux, Bryar Madden) broke the meet record at 8:03 and took down a very good Jesuit team and a good Catholic (Baton Rouge) team,” Whitaker said. “On the girls side, we beat the perennial powerhouse — St. Joe’s. We went under 10 minutes, which was a goal of (distance coach Dustin Cochran), to have his girls go sub-10 minutes indoors, so that group did a very good job.”

Ruston 3,200m girls team (Lily Garrett, Zoie Holstead, Anna Naff, Sara Naff) also turned in a first-place finish at the Last Chance Qualifier.

Sibling rivalries have helped the Lady Bearcats as Anna and Sara Naff and Bryanna and Autumn Craig each push their sisters as well as other teammates to better performances.

Bryanna Craig, a Louisiana Tech signee, is a heptathlete who set a personal record over the weekend in the high jump and placed third in the 400m, but Autumn also qualified to compete in the state meet in the shot put.

“I inherited two Craig girls,” Whitaker said. “Autumn threw a PR of 38 feet in the Qualifier Meet, then came back and threw 35 feet this week to rank fifth in the state and helps give our girls a great chance at winning state this year. I think we’re 35-point favorites right now over St. Joe’s and Scotlandville.”

Thomas Rogers is another Bearcat who has turned up the pace as the indoor season has progressed.

Thomas ran a personal record of under two minutes in the two-mile run and PR’d in the 1,600m,” Whitaker said. “Coach Cochran had been telling me how if Thomas finally puts it together, we’re going to see some nice stuff from him.”

Proven Bearcats standouts Jada Williams, who signed with Texas Christian in November, and Brandon “BJ” Green, who signed with Oklahoma, also had big weekends for the Bearcats.

“Jada set a PR in the 400m at 57.01, coming in second place behind a Scotlandville runner who’s a sophomore that is running fantastic right now,” Whitaker said. “BJ qualified for the indoors in the long jump by going 22-feet, seven-inches, and that sets up a pretty nice state championship because a guy down the road at Ouachita (Parish) jumped 49 feet, 8 inches, which put him as No. 1 in the nation and knocked BJ down to No. 2. That’s going to be a match the whole country will be watching and paying attention to when the indoor state meet rolls around. It may take 50 feet to win the triple jump this year.”

And last but by no means last, Whitakers’s son Josiah, a junior, also turned in a strong meet at the Last Chance Qualifier.

“He actually didn’t qualify for the state meet until this weekend when he finished in the Boys 800m,” Whitaker said. “That was a personal indoor record for him. The previous two meets he had fallen down in both and couldn’t put together the runs that he wanted to, but he went out with a lot of heart over the weekend and ran the race of his life.”


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