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ESJ cross country team making strides in 1998

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / October 5, 1998

RESERVE – The East St. John cross country team is in its fourth year ofexistence and the program has undergone a tremendous transformation in that period according to coach Charity Mack.

This year’s squad consists of 19 runners led by captains Lionel Gauff and Chris Felder, both of whom Mack said are doing a wonderful job of providing leadership.

Both Felder and Gauff have been nominated for outstanding student awards and Mack said both exemplify all-around student-athletes. In fact,academics is a big part of the team with almost all of the members having A’s and B’s on their report cards.

“I am real proud of them,” Mack said. “They have shown real dedication.”Returning to the squad is Yoshiko Taylor, back to defend her district title from a year ago. Taylor helped the Lady Cats place third in district byrunning a career-best time of 12 minutes, 45 seconds in the district meet.

She would finish 44th at state, helping East St. John place 18th overall.Also returning are two family duos, Burt and Robert Heidel and Sherri and Jennifer Schexnayder. Others returning are Larry Mayeaux, Caesar Cruz andLatz Miller for the boys and Charlotte Aceituno and Robin Smith for the girls.

“They have shown the daily dedication so important in cross country,” Mack said. “I am glad to see so many staying out for it.”The squad will also feature a number of newcomers for the 1998 season.

Jeffrey Yates, Rodney Pigett, Anthony Marino, Gregory Johnson, Deshone Frith and Billy Chernota join the boys team, while Jennifer Wright, already a member of the Lady Cats’ volleyball and softball teams, joins the girls’ squad.

Also new this year is assistant coach Carey Ourso, who has been hired from Thibodaux High School to coach baseball and who was an assistant cross country coach with the Tigers. The girls’ team will also feature newuniforms.

Because of the recent inclement weather, East St. John has only been ableto compete in one meet, the E.D. White meet held last Thursday. Robert Heidel led the way for the Wildcats with a time of 18:04. Felderran a 18:23 while Miller ran the three-mile course in 18:33. The girls’team did not compete in the meet.

East St. John travels today to the St. Joseph’s Invita-tional held inHighland Park in Baton Rouge. Over a 1,000 runners from around the statecompete in the meet and Mack said it is a great experience for the runners.

East St. John will compete in two meets a week from now until the end ofNovember, about 17 in all. Mack said she is looking forward to Taylorsetting a course record this year and the Wildcats hosting a meet at the school October 21.

Mack said she does different things to keep the practices from becoming monotonous. She holds follow the leader runs and last year held ascavenger hunt in which the team was split into two squads that had to run to different places to pick up items.

“It ends up being like a family,” Mack said. “They are very close.”

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