* Jesuit's Michael Vocke after winning the LHSAA Class 5A race in 2021
Photo Credit: Louisiana MileSplit
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New Orleans Jesuit is coming back to the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships.
After finishing 16th a year ago at the year-end national championships -- with their top runner battling through sickness -- Cullen Doody and Co. are chasing after history this time around on the fastest course in America, announcing on Friday that they have committed to the national-title race in Huntsville, Alabama for the 2022 season.
The Blue Jays, MileSplit's fourth-ranked team in the preseason national rankings, return all seven members from that placement a season ago and also return the second-fastest 3,200m group in the country, based on the most recent outdoor season performances.
"It will help us put a stamp on the season," Doody said. "The kids would love to go out on a high note and to go out on a bang. They love going out and running fast in the last race of the year and this will give us a chance to do this."
Last year at the Garmin RunningLane Championships, Newbury Park captured history over 5K at John Hunt Park, running the fastest average ever at a national championship with a team-wide time of 14:14.
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But they weren't the only team to achieve that feat. Cheyenne Mountain (14:49) and Portland Jesuit (14:58) also clocked times under 15-minutes, while Union Catholic (15:02), Grapevine (15:12) and Farmington (15:13) were all under 15:15.
Doody, New Orleans Jesuit's head coach, has his sights set on his program chasing after that sub-15 team average mark.
"The best kids in America have run on this course over the last two years, so you'll get to compare on this course," he said. "It's a course that has some history, even if it's recent history, it's history nonetheless and we're excited to go."
Louisiana's state meet is positioned on the same week as another high-level regional, making scheduling especially difficult.
But as RunningLane was the only national championship on the calendar a year ago -- and was one of the few in 2021, when many organizations weren't holding races due to COVID -- and continues to evolve as a national championship race, Doody said he wouldn't have it any other way.
"RunningLane is an excellent meet," he said. "The course is probably the nicest course in America. I think there will be great competition, because they've had the national championship there the last two years."