Larayo wins individual swimming competition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 11, 2001


PHOTO 1: Larayo swimmer Courtney Gist practices the breast stroke on a daily basis in preparation of meets. (Staff Photo by J. Edmund Barnes) LAPLACE – With only the Monday night meet against the Riverlands Stingrays in the way of a perfect season, the Larayo Barracudas knuckled down to winning the individual competition. “We’re ready for tonight,” said Larayo coach Michelle Jensen before the meet. “If we win tonight we win (the individual competition). This weekend all six teams will compete at Riverlands.” Most of the Larayo team members were present at the meet. Mark Roussel, whose children Austin, 8, Mason, 5, and Ryan, 4, compete in swimming and baseball at the facility, said Larayo was founded to provide recreation in LaPlace. Roussel has been involved with Larayo for four years. His youngest son Ryan just started participating because as Mark said, “He wanted to play.” Mark proudly said Larayo offers swimming, baseball, fast pitch softball for girls, and beginning later this year, basketball. “The boys start with tee ball and it goes up to 14 year olds,” said Mark Roussel. “Lots of families join with two or more kids.” Marie Crais was there to watch her son swim. Robbie Crais was swimming in the 11- and 12-year-old boys group. PHOTO 2: Larayo coach Michelle Jensen, left, stands with swim team member Robbie Crais prior to a recent meet. (Staff Photo by J. Edmund Barnes) “He swims freestyle, breast stroke, the butterfly, and the relays,” said Marie Crais. “He’s been swimming since he was four.” In addition to swimming with Larayo, Marie said Robbie also plays football for St. Joan of Arc school and soccer for the Lafreniere Park system. “Soccer is his number one sport, next to swimming,” said Marie Crais. She said he hopes to go to Brother Martin High School or Jesuit High School in New Orleans to play on the varsity squad. Marie Crais said her son also plays catcher for the St. Joan of Arc Middle School baseball team. For his part, Robbie expressed no goals for swimming. “My brother swam in state,” said Robbie, who admitted to preferring soccer. Robbie usually plays goal keeper or occasionally midfielder in soccer. Another family that was well represented on the Larayo team were the Gists of Destrehan. Lead by Courtney, 15, the Gist family includes Chelsea, 13, Garrett, 7, and Gabrielle, 5. Courtney Gist has been swimming since she was 6 years old. “I love it,” said Courtney of swimming. “It’s a big part of my life. I do it everyday, twice a day. Mornings and afternoons.” Courtney competes year round in swimming. In addition to the races she competes in for Larayo, she also swims for the Crescent City Swim Club and for her high school, Ursuline Academy. “Her sunburned nose is evidence of her hard work and diligence,” said Shea Puglia. Courtney’s biggest influence has been Larayo coach Michelle Jensen. Courtney’s mother Colleen Gist said Michelle encouraged her when she was very young. “(Courtney) fell in love with the sport,” said Colleen Gist.” Michelle is a wonderful coach. “She tries to make you better, even if you’re not going to give her any points.” When asked if she feels any rising competition from her siblings, Courtney said, “There are no threats yet. I help them out.”