In Donaldsonville, the city councilmen aren't the only ones who gain repeat glory. The Ascension Catholic High boy's cross-country team does too. It won its second consecutive 1A State championship Monday in the three-mile run at Northwestern State's Walter Ledet Track Complex.
Last season, the team won its first state title in cross-country led by now sophomore Zach Capello. At this year's championship race, Capello again stood at the top of the podium as the individual overall winner with a time of 16:01 and teammate, junior Jesse Hood, standing next to him as runner-up with a time of 16:13, the Bulldogs earned their second championship trophy in as many years.
Despite Hood adding some pressure to Capello from behind, Capello said it still was a good feeling to win for a second year in a row.
"It's kind of weird to win it by like a minute the first time and by ten seconds the next," Capello said about hearing Hood's footsteps behind, "but it still feels the same."
Although Hood is a junior, this is only his second year on the team and he admits that last season he wasn't a very good runner. He didn't take running seriously last season, but he came back this season ready to work hard and it paid off for him. He finished behind Capello, whom Hood calls "the prodigy."
"I found out this year I was pretty good. It feels good because he's (Capello) like a prodigy so I guess I give him a little competition to help him get better," Hood said about trailing the two-year champion Capello.
Next season, his senior year, Hood said he's going for it all and working to beat Capello for the individual award winner.
Capello has been running since the fifth grade and he said he started just so he could beat his older brother Trey Capello who is also his teammate who finished fifth place at the meet with a time 17:11. By the time Capello was in the seventh grade, he knew he wanted to be a cross-country champion.
"I started getting better and gaining on him more and more and it became a reality that I could win a state championship."
But as the two brothers got older, their perspectives changed. It's a friendly rivalry that the two use to help get the team's score lower.
"He (Trey) settled into his place and did what he needed to do to help our team win. It became a more of a team thing than me versus him."
Trey and Zach aren't the only two Capellos who run this cross-country team. The team's head coach Rocky Capello is their coach during workout hours and their father during homework hours. Trey, a junior, said it could be stressful with Rocky playing both roles. Trey likes to eat Doritos chips, but as a runner Rocky reminds him to eat the right foods. Trey said for his senior year though he hopes to join his little brother and Hood on the winning podium.
"Next year I'm hoping to be on the podium for Top-3," he said. "I don't think I can beat Zack or Jesse, but Top-3 is good."
The boy's team isn't the only team that had success at the state meet's three-mile run. The girl's team finished with its best season ever and was led by a seventh and eight-grader. The girl's team finished as the State Runner-up and was led by seventh grader Stephanie Breaux who broke the school's all-time record with a time of 20:40, enough to earn her eight place at the meet.
"It feels good running against high [school athletes] and knowing that I'm better than a lot of them," Breaux said, who has been running for two years.
Her goal is to compete through high school, college and go on to earn a spot on the USA Olympic team. She already knows the formula to success.
"Hard work is most important," she said, "but practice is terrible but we have to do it to get better."
Although practices are long and hard for Breaux, she knows the work is paying off.
Finishing in 12th place for the girl's team was Breanna Bernard who is in the eight grade. Bernard finished with a time of 20:50, not far behind Breaux. As she gets ready for high school year she already has her goals laid out and she is going for Breaux's newly acquired school record, but she said Breaux is fast.
"I want to make top-10 at state for sure, but hopefully get on the podium," Bernard said. "I just have to keep working hard, finishing the practices and just trying,"
Bernard's thoughts on coach Rocky, "He's amazing, I couldn't imagine a better coach."
Rocky has helped turn this cross-country program around. In 2010, the boy's team finished runners-up and in the last two, the team has brought home the gold.
The Bulldogs can expect more trophies to come, as this year's team had zero seniors on the roster and a total of five juniors between the boys and girls teams.
"We're looking really good for the future," Rocky said, "so if the kids stay committed and keep working hard then we are hoping we can bring home some more hardware over the next couple of years."
Rocky added, "I've told my kids (Trey and Zach) since day one, the only time I care if they are focused on running is for that one hour and fifteen minutes of the workout they have to be focused. Other than that I want them to have a good time and enjoy it. It's always been that way."