Lyons: St. John’s prep athletes should look for silver lining

Published 12:04 am Saturday, May 21, 2016

My mama always told me it was OK to be fashionably late to a party.

So, lucky for me I didn’t miss too much when I arrived at L’OBSERVATEUR nearly halfway through the school year in November.

It’s not like I was a stranger crashing the event or anything. I have been covering high school sports in the River Parishes, with only a few brief interludes, since 1991. Yes, kids, I covered some of your parents when they were in school – a fact they love to remind me of on occasion.

Over those years I’ve been to a lot of championship events. I’ve seen the thrill of victory up close. I’ve seen many a dogpile on many a pitcher’s mound. I’ve seen (and occasionally been hit by) a couple of Gatorade baths.

I’ve seen the look in athletes’ eyes when they get to hold that golden state championship trophy high in the air.

I’ve also seen the agony of defeat, the pain in the eyes of the players that had to hold that other trophy – the silver one, the one that signifies a team was the runner-up, the second best.

St. John the Baptist Parish sports fans got to see that played out a lot this sports season.

The Riverside Academy football team was the runner-up to Notre Dame in the Super Dome. The Riverside basketball team was the runner-up to Madison Prep in Lake Charles. The St. Charles Catholic baseball team was the runner-up to St. Thomas Aquinas in Sulphur.

There were no Gatorade baths for any of those coaches, who instead were tasked with trying to console their players who had given their all and just fallen short. There were no dogpiles, no celebrations, no smiling photos with the trophy.

Nobody likes to finish second, especially not in sports. I’ve seen teams practically be forced to go out to receive their runner-up trophy from LHSAA officials. I saw one (non-local) baseball team walk off the field and leave theirs behind in the dirt. I’ve heard that a (non-local) basketball team left theirs in a locker room, got on the bus and went home without it.

Then there was the St. Charles Catholic golf team, a group of young men who looked like they just might have something special this year. Their coach, Gary Zeringue, certainly thought so.

Last month those Comets proved him right, overachieving (just a little) to finish as the Division III state runner-up at the State Golf Meet in Lafayette.

Those guys, Mikey LeBlanc, Jacob Jensen, Will Torres, Daniel Joubert and Jeffrey Cupit, were all smiles as they proudly held their trophy – the silver one – after their second place finish. It has been a long time since they had held any trophy at all.

Landry was equally proud of his silver medal after his state runner-up finish. He had placed fifth at last year’s event.

There was no Gatorade bath for West St. John track coach Ulysses Frontha, either.

That’s because he and his athletes were on the bus when they got a phone call telling them that they had finished as the Class 2A state runner-up.

According to junior Austin Alexander, who was the only individual in the parish to finish as a state champion this school year, he and his fellow Rams “went crazy” when they found out they had finished second.

I teased Frontha the other day about being the only coach who smiled while holding the runner-up trophy.

“It’s a great achievement,” he said.

I wish all athletes and coaches could embrace that silver lining. Perhaps they will, in time, once the sting wears off a little.

St. Charles baseball coach Wayne Stein, who now has had a little time to process his team’s runner-up finish last week, said he’s feeling better.

“It’s not so much how it ended,” he said. “It’s that, it’s over.”

A coach I know used to like to say, “People only remember who finishes first. Nobody remembers who finished second.”

I know that’s not true. I just had to look up all those teams that finished first because I couldn’t remember them all.

I know St. John sports fans will remember this season for all its glory – even if it was colored silver.

Lori Lyons is sports editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at 985-652-9545 or