MEMPHIS, Tenn. – After numerous weather delays which caused races to finish after midnight, the Ragin' Cajuns men's and women's cross country teams opened their 2012 season competing in the Brooks Memphis Twilight Cross Country Classic at Mike Rose Soccer Complex late Saturday into the early morning hours Sunday.
The rainy conditions made for a grueling course to start the season, but head coach Lon Badeaux's troops gained valuable experience as several freshmen made their collegiate debut. Originally scheduled to start at 8:40 p.m. with the women's 5K, the event would not start until after 11 p.m. due to weather.
On the men's side, Louisiana saw three runners finish in the Top 75 of a four mile run which featured a field of 208 competitors.
Senior Zach France, the veteran of the group, led the squad with a time of 22:34.87 which placed him 56th. Freshmen Cole Stafford (Baton Rouge/Catholic-BR) and Corbett Ourso (Hammond/St. Thomas Aquinas) joined France in the elite group with times of 22:44.08 (62nd) and 22:46.72 (67th), respectively.
Entering the season with a roster comprised of five freshmen out of a group of seven, the Cajuns women to no surprise were led by a group of new faces.
Freshman Anna Katherine Devitt (Baton Rouge/Christian Life) completed the women's 5K in 21:34.72 to lead the Cajuns contingent. Fellow freshman Danielle Castaldi (Exton, Pa./Downington East) joined her in the Top 100 with a mark of 21:57.12 that placed her 98th.
"We had some tough conditions having to compete on a wet course and a long delay," Badeaux commented. "This meet was a starting point for us used to evaluate our new athletes.
"I was happy with how our men competed considering we had five freshmen in our Top 6. Our women struggled a bit, but they were the most affected by the delay with five of our six at the meet being freshmen. It will be a good learning experience moving forward."
Badeaux saw two heralded recruits on the men's side turn in a Top 100 finish.
Lafayette native Trey Bonin, the Louisiana Class 4A cross country champion in 2011, came in 92nd with a four-mile clocking of 23:17.80. Baton Rouge native Matthew Rice, the Louisiana Class 2A cross country champion in 2009 and 2010 and 2010 Gatorade Louisiana Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, came in just ahead of Bonin with a time of 23:03.63 which placed him 80th.
In addition to Devitt, the four-time Louisiana Class 1A champion, and Castaldi, three other freshmen made their collegiate debuts on the women's side and figured into the Cajuns final score.
Grouped together in the first 10 finishers of the second 100 of the meet's competitors was Bree Fontenot (107th, 22:14.77), Jessica Donald (108th, 22:17.08) and Ashley Irwin (110th, 22:21.40).
Saturday's event was the start of a 2012 campaign for Badeaux in which he seeks to build the Cajuns cross country program into a Sun Belt contender in the coming years. All together, 10 freshmen – five on both the men's and women's squads – are set to form a solid foundation for Badeaux.
"We are really excited about getting cross country season started," Badeaux remarked. "The men's team has one senior in Zach France and he will lead a group of 5 very talented freshmen including the past two Louisiana Cross Country Runners of the Year in Matt Rice and Cole Stafford.
"We should have a solid six or seven runners on the men's team and look to be miles better than last year. The women's team features an entire new team of 5 freshmen with standout high school runners Anna Katherine Devitt and Danielle Castaldi from Pennsylvania leading the way. Anna was also the Louisiana Cross Country Runner of the Year. We are not as deep on the women's team, but definitely more talented and should be successful. "
The Ragin' Cajuns return to action on Friday, Sept. 14 as they host their annual home meet, the Ragin' Cajuns Invitational. Action that day starts at 8:40 p.m., with the women's race and wraps up at 9:20 p.m., with the men's event.
RAGIN' CAJUNS MEN'S 4 MILE RUN RESULTS
56) Zach France (22:34.87)
62) Cole Stafford (22:44.08)
67) Corbett Ourso (22:46.72)
80) Matthew Rice (23:03.63)
92) Trey Bonin (23:17.80)
133) Scott Brewster (24:08.28)
152) Courtland Privat (24:38.75)
162) Patrick Spiller (24:53.09)
RAGIN' CAJUNS WOMENS' 5K RESULTS
89) Anna Katherine Devitt (21:34.72)
98) Danielle Castaldi (21:57.12)
107) Bree Fontenot (22:14.77)
108) Jessica Donald (22:17.08)
110) Ashley Irwin (22:21.40)
140) Genevieve Roy (23:21.80)