By Kyle Roberts
NATCHITOCHES, La. — Ruston High finished its 2023 cross country campaign for both the boys and girls Monday afternoon at the LHSAA Division 1 State Championship hosted by Northwestern State University.
The boys came in fourth overall with 118 points, two points shy of third place, and the girls took sixth overall with 203 points, two points shy of fifth place.
“This was the most competitive 5A state meet in Louisiana history,” Ruston High head cross country coach Dustin Cochran said first of the boys meet. “By the end, we all knew there were five really good teams that had podium shots. In the beginning of the season we weren’t in the conversation. Jesuit and Brother Martin were nationally ranked, and Parkway and Catholic were returning really good teams. After the first coaches poll, we were ranked ninth in 5A. By the end of the season we’re talking about possibly getting on the podium. We had so many kids step up this year; for themselves and for their team. We grew a ton. A lot of guys ran personal recordss. We accomplished a lot of things; won district, won regionals. These kids laid an excellent foundation this year.
“We certainly wanted to be a podium team this year, and at worst third. In the end, we had a chance to do that. We didn’t quite get what we wanted but we really fought hard for it and we learned a lot. I think these guys can be really tough to deal with next year if they do things right these next 12 months.”
Senior Thomas Rogers earned all-state honors after running 15 minutes, 14.00 seconds on the three-mile track. Rogers was the only boys runner outside of New Orleans to place in the top ten.
Senior Landon Byrd took 23rd at 15:59, while sophomore Taylor Roller finished 27th at 16:06. Sophomore Tyler Roller finished 33rd with a time of 16:20, while sophomore Joshua Daulton took 36th at 16:26 to round out scoring. Sophomore Al-Amin Wilson finished 44th with a time of 16:36, while junior Liam Lowe finished 61st at 16:50.
On the girls’ side, sophomore Parker Nations earned All-State honors, as well, after her ninth place finish at 18:43. Junior Zoie Holstead finished 39th at 20:09, while freshman Hallie Hebert finished 52nd at 20:37.
Freshman Emmersyn Nations finished 57th with a time of 20:57, while freshman Aydan Murry rounded out scoring at 21:39.
Freshman Diana Santos ran 24:31 for 150th overall.
After the first coaches poll, we were ranked 9th in 5A. By the end of the season we’re talking about can we possibly get on the podium. We had so many kids step up this year.. for themselves and for their team. We grew a ton. A lot of guys ran PRs. We accomplished a lot of things. Won district. Won regionals. These kids laid an excellent foundation this year.
We certainly wanted to be a podium team this year, and at worst third. In the end we had a chance to do that. We didn’t quite get what we wanted but we really fought hard for it and we learned a lot. I think these guys can be really tough to deal with next year if they do things right these next 12 months.
“This was a roller coaster of a year,” Cochran said about the girls’ team. “Only six of our girls made it through to the state meet this year (you need seven to have a full team). In the middle of September, we were looking around and wondering if we were even going to qualify for state. We knew we had to keep working all the way through and keep improving. Then, we needed to run a great disciplined state race to even have a shot of being eighth or ninth. It could’ve easily been worse. When it mattered most, all six girls ran their hearts out, followed the race plan to a “T,” and we finished sixth, just two points out of 5th, and again as the top public school in Louisiana.
“These girls were able to overcome tremendous adversity, doubt, and some fear this season, and I know they laid a foundation that they can build their lives on. It’s easy to give up when things don’t go your way, or when things are hard. It’s very easy to quit on yourself and your team. They never did that. This group grew close, and they raced like it when they mattered. I’m very proud of them and can’t wait to see what they do in another year.”