Ashley Martin ’17
The Woodlawn Panthers Cross Country team traveled to City Park in New Orleans on Saturday, October 22, 2016 for the Jack Schommer Invitational. The meet included 11 new personal records for the Panthers, all of which were well-deserved and visibly fought for.
The Lady Panthers were the first to take the course. In total, there were 9 girls that ran in the race. The girls of the varsity team earned 5 of the 11 new records.
Alexis Martin (21:49), Melissa Grant (21:51; PR), and Aimee Martin (26:21) were the first three running for Woodlawn to cross the finish line. Coming in soon after were Ashton Howard (27:34; PR), Alexis Aucoin (29:59; PR), and Lily Khemmanyvong (32:04).
Aucoin was proud to have broken the 30-minute mark. Howard’s sprint at the end of her race was truly remarkable. Khemmanyvong, earning a personal record for the season, mentioned her determination to improve and her goals for the rest of the season.
Also running for Woodlawn was Rayan Kaadan (32:54; PR), Belyn Laird (39:33; PR), and Carolyn Sprague (39:33).
Kaadan and Laird finally got the chance to prove themselves this weekend by competing in their first varsity races. Sprague, fighting against pain in her knees, had Laird to rely on during the race, both finishing with respectable times.
Following the girls’ race was the boys’ varsity race. Gathering 4 new personal records, the team exhibited their definition of hard work and dedication.
Meeting, but not surpassing, his personal record, Khidir Al-Mustafa (16:52) came in 8th place in the meet, earning his second placing in the top ten since beginning cross country. Afterwards, finishing were Darmar Galvan (19:20; PR), Coby Sanchez (19:23), Saulomon John (19:27; PR), and Joshua Stephens (20:13). Running together for most of the race, they each pushed each other for personal bests. Julian Scott (21:27; PR) and Brandon Williams (21:27) also ran together.
Tyler Lewis (24:59; PR) ran in his first varsity race this weekend, surprising everyone when he finished under 25 minutes.
Competing in the Open Race were Makenzey Heughan (30:11; PR) and Lisa Wood (33:21; PR). For both of these girls, their first races went very well, and both managed to smile following the race because of this achievement.
Next weekend will be the first and only weekend off for Woodlawn’s Cross Country team. Regardless, they are continuing to work harder than ever to become a force to be reckoned with for the state meet November 15th. Regarding the rest of the season as a whole, Coach Wallace stated, “The best thing of all is that we are finally learning how to race against other schools instead of just trying to beat our personal times from the week before. We aren’t getting in shape anymore; we are in shape and battling for every position. We are in warrior mode.”
Ashley Martin ’17
Marking this weekend as cross country’s mid-season race, Woodlawn is pushing past their bounds for astounding times. Starting the morning strong, the girls set the bar high with four new personal records. Coming in first and second for Woodlawn with a close finish were Alexis Martin (22:37) and Melissa Grant (22:38; PR). Following were Aimee Martin (26:48; PR) and Kelli Oubre (27:15; PR), both of which are also competing in their first year of cross country. Finishing off the team’s female varsity race were Alexis Aucoin (30:41; PR) and Shelby Sanchez (31:16). These girls both exhibited the true meaning of teamwork with Shelby encouraging Alexis to meet a new personal record.
Woodlawn’s boys have also been working towards noteworthy finishes with two new personal records. Khidir Al-Mustafa (17:31), finished first for our team, steadily reaching for a new male personal record for the school, impressively motivating his peers to accomplish their goals. Soon after Khidir came Brandon Williams (18:52), portraying a fluidity that is seemingly natural which has furthered his abilities of strength and endurance. Finishing next were Marshall Bayles (19:15; PR) and Sauloman John (19:50) who are seen to be pushing each other in practices every day.
Rounding out the boys’ varsity race for Woodlawn were Joshua Stephens (20:22; PR) and Logan Fontenot (23:56). Joshua sprinted to the finish line with a smile on his face, as always, showing his inspiring motivation to continue to set new personal records.
Logan, bringing his heart into the race against all odds, finished with only 35 seconds separating him from a new personal record. Running for his late cousin Conner this season, Logan has dedicated himself and his season with cross country to Conner’s remembrance. Touching the hearts of all that watched this weekend, Logan has exhibited a strength that is admired and strived for by his teammates. From all of the cross country team and those that have continued to support Woodlawn as a whole, Logan has a strong family of people that will always have his back.
Bringing new talent onto the team this weekend was Itzel Vasquez (19:47; PR), Rayan Kaadan (22:19), and Carolyn Sprague (23:06; PR), competing in a two-mile open race. With continued hard work, these three girls show promising seasons. Running in the three-mile open race was Lillian Khemmanyvong (36:56), fighting the exhaustion of Woodlawn High School’s 2016/2017 Homecoming.
Next weekend, Woodlawn will be attending a meet in Walker, offering a much needed change in scenery.
It took until the fifth week of the season, but the Woodlawn cross country team finally got to run on a dry course, and the results were spectacular. Every Woodlawn competitor turned in their best time of the season. Twelve out of the eighteen that competed turned in career bests.
The boy’s squad turned in their best team performance of the year, averaging 19:04 over the three mile course as six runners went under 20 minutes. Khidhr Al-Mustafa turned in a season and team best 17:33. Brandon Williams finished in a time of 18:29. Junior Saulomon John was the third Panther across the line with a personal record of 19:34 and was closely followed by the trio of Coby Sanchez (19:34), Darmar Galvan (19:52) and Marshall Bayles (19:53), all of which were personal records.
The boys moved up ten places over their finish in the same meet last season and are really beginning to race and compete as a team.
Coach Wallace says the key to the team’s success is no secret. “It’s hard work, nothing but hard work. As the season has progressed the boys have really embraced our weekly workout plan and are competing with each other and pushing each other in practice. That makes us run faster in practice which makes us run faster in the meets. In other words, the faster you train, the faster you race.”
The girls’ team finished five places better than their finish in 2015. They were led by a season best 22:33 performance by junior Alexis Martin. Her time was the team’s best of the year and seemed to be just the motivation the rest of the squad needed as every girl on the team ran a season best at this meet.
Junior Melissa Grant was the second Lady Panther to finish in a personal record 23:51.
After the race Grant could not control her enthusiasm for the day and for the future as she echoed the sentiment of the entire team when she commented, “Coach, I want to work harder than I ever have this upcoming week and dominate the Highland Road course next Saturday.”
Grant’s excitement and work ethic, along with the leadership of Alexis Martin and team captain Shelby Sanchez, has been a great help to the girls’ team as they continue to improve from week to week.
Freshman Aimee Martin set another personal record of 28:10, as did sophomore Alexis Aucoin, who competed in her first varsity contest. Kelli Oubre and Rayan Kaadan both set personal records in the two mile JV race. Oubre is likely to see her first varsity action next Saturday.
In the boys JV race, freshman Tyler Lewis saw his first action of the season, finishing the two mile course in 16 minutes.
The boys and girls teams will return to Highland Road Park this Saturday for the Catholic High Invitational.
Never has there been a more appropriate name for a race than the Battlefield Cross Country festival held at the state historic site in Port Hudson, Louisiana. Along with fierce competition from 20 other schools in the region, many runners find the course itself to be the most formidable enemy of the day.
The course is packed with short, steep hills with rocks and tree roots in high abundance. At the bottom of those hills are small creeks and gullies full of the previous night’s rain. More so than any other course the Panther cross country team faces in a season, the Battlefield is the most unpredictable.
It was clear from the beginning that Saturday’s race was going to be an adventure. The first 40 meters of the race are the flattest, but also the wettest as that stretch was much more like running through a marsh than an open field.
The Woodlawn Panthers cross country team hasn’t had a dry meet yet this season, so looking at the mud hole in front of them at the start line was no big deal, just another run in the park. As the Civil War re-en-actor fired his musket to start the race, the Panthers fired off the line and were some of the first to cross the battlefield and make it to the tree line where the hills begin.
On the final 800 meters of the course it was the duo of Melissa Grant and Alexis Martin that were the first two Panthers out of the woods and onto the finishing flat. Grant pulled slightly ahead in the last 150 meters, and sprinted in the last 100 meters to shut down an attack by two other competitors. Alexis Martin finished second for the Panthers and helped lead the team to a tenth place overall finish, two places better than their finish in 2015. Freshman Aimee Martin set a PR for the second week in a row. Team Captain Shelby Sanchez, Ashton Howard and Lillian Khemmanyvong all had great runs in helping the team climb the finishing results.
Khidhr Al-Mustafa crossed the line 27th overall in a field of nearly 250 entrants and helped the boy’s team finish 12th overall, which was a great improvement over 2015’s 16th place finish. Al-Mustafa devoured the course in 18:36 and was followed closely by Brandon Williams (19:57) who was able to outrun seven runners in the final 100 meters of the race.
Rounding out the top five for Woodlawn were Darmar Galvan, Saulomon John and Coby Sanchez, who appeared in his first varsity competition of the year. Marshall Bayles looked great in his comeback from an ankle injury as he finished sixth for the Panthers and was followed closely by Julian Scott, who set a personal record on the day.
In the JV Race, Sophomores Alexis Aucoin and Rayan Kaadan both set PR’s on a very tough course.
The Panther cross country team will be in action this Saturday at Highland Road Park for the St. Joseph’s Invitational. Girls varsity will begin at 9:30 am. followed by boys varsity at 10:00 am and the JV race at 10:30 am.