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Paparazzo Presents...Cross Country Galleries

2004 5A State Championship Predictions

2009 LHSAA Louisiana State Championship Gallery
2008 LHSAA Louisiana State Championship Gallery
2008 Louisiana State Championship Editorial
2007 LHSAA Louisiana State Championship Gallery
2007 Walker Shoot Out
2007 Holy Cross Invitational
2007 Rummel Invitational
2006 LHSAA Louisiana State Championship Gallery
2006 Louisiana State Championship Impressions
2006 UIL Texas State Championships
10/28/06 Comeaux Invitational
10/21/06 Jack Schommer Invitational
10/07/06 Catholic High Invitational
09/16/06 Mt. Carmel Invitational Gallery
09/02/06 Bayou Boogie Invitational Gallery
2005 Louisiana State Championship Gallery
Brett Guidry Tribute
11/05/05 UIL Region III Championships
10/21/05 Katy ISD Invitational Gallery
10/15/05 Strake Jesuit Invitational Gallery
10/01/05 McNeil Invitational Gallery
09/17/05 Spring Branch Invitational Gallery
9/4/04 Gallery
9/18/04 Gallery
9/25/04 Gallery
10/02/04 Gallery
10/16/04 Gallery
10/30/04 Gallery
Catholic League Championship 2004 Gallery
Metro Championship 2004 Gallery
2004 5A State Championship Predictions
2004 State Championship Results

When I caught Andy Florek & The Crusaders on tour in Mississippi last month, they were being photographed during the awards ceremony, and some cheeky individual shouted, “Smile and say Blue Jays.” Naturally, that went over like a lead balloon, but recalling the incident provides a good segue into a discussion of the Cross Country Championships next week in Natchitoches. Regardless of who was and wasn’t regionally ranked at the beginning of the season, one fact remains clear: it is always foolhardy to bet against Jesuit anytime, anywhere, in any sport, for any reason. It’s detrimental to claim that Jesuit has a lock on the state championship this year; that type of attitude breeds hubris, complacency, and eventual disaster. However, I personally won’t be surprised if Jesuit gives us a repeat performance of last year’s dominance, when team leader Josh Cusimano collapsed before reaching the finish line, but the other runners‘ strong performances earned the Blue Jays a state title anyway.

The individual 5A championship is another matter entirely, however. Most people would agree with me that this is basically a three-man race among Brother Martin’s Andy Florek, St. Paul’s Jonathan Thomas, and, of course, the defending champ, Jesuit’s Brett Guidry. Now, if someone else...say, some big, lumbering National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalist known for his long strides and phenomenal endurance...should come along and defeat the three favorites, I will firmly believe in the Curse of the Paparazzo and will solemnly swear to never again make sports predictions, out of fear of jinxing yet another set of athletes. Until that happens, let me go forward with my thoughts concerning the individual chances of Andy, Jonathan, and Brett for a first place finish on the 16th.

ANDY FLOREK: I think I finally have Andy “Don’t Call Me Michael” Florek figured out. Andy wins races because he is impervious to heat. At the beginning of the season, Andy was consistently blowing away the competition, winning the St. Joseph‘s Invitational, the Mount Carmel Cub Run, and the Episcopal Round Table Run, so I ran a photo of Florek on the homepage of my website with the question, “Can Anyone Beat This Guy?” in bold print. Well, immediately thereafter, Andy ran his first race in which rain, not heat, was a factor (the Catholic High Invitational) and ten (yes, TEN) runners answered my question. I couldn’t believe it. Was this the same athlete who I had seen, time after time, crossing the finish line with a serene expression, barely breaking a sweat, looking as though he could continue running for another three miles, as everyone else came up, huffing and puffing on the brink of exhaustion, behind him? Then, somewhere along the line, I finally got it. Just as baseball has hot weather and cold weather pitchers, cross country has hot weather and cold weather runners. Therefore, unless God is a Crusaders fan and He sends a heat wave to Natchitoches next week, I don’t think Andy will win this race.

JONATHAN THOMAS: Even casual cross country observers have taken note of Jonathan’s athletic prowess (especially after the Rummel Invitational) and only those with severely malformed or diseased brains would discount this very real threat to the championship in Natchitoches. When I think of Jonathan, one word comes to mind: hungry. Avoiding any corny puns about ravenous Wolves, it’s obvious that Jonathan has been training like a fanatic (and even posting messages about it at various forums), starved for the recognition already accorded to his metro area competitors. If this northshore kid brings that attitude with him on the 16th, hard work and perseverance just may pay off, and I predict that such a triumph of willpower will spark celebrations that reach far beyond Covington. I give Jonathan a 50/50 shot at winning the title.

BRETT GUIDRY: This brings us to a discussion of the guy with a target on his back, a God gifted athlete named Brett Guidry. Even if the Blue Jays preserve their dynasty, they’ll walk away from the fight in Natchitoches with a black eye if Brett doesn’t repeat as the individual state champion. That’s quite a burden to place on any sixteen-year-old’s shoulders, but  Brett impressed me to such a degree last season, I had to put my comments in check just to avoid shortchanging his competitors. To tell the truth, I’m still somewhat in awe of Brett, and I realized that at this year’s District Championships. I may have had my doubts in September, but on November 4, I understood that Brett Guidry was still Brett Guidry. That Brett Guidry is so good he’s scary, and therefore I’m also giving him an even chance at being the 2004 5A champion.

At this point, you’re probably saying, “Okay, Paparazzo, you’re baffled as to who is actually going to win the championship, but who do you WANT to win?” To that query, I’ll reply that I’ll be sincerely happy no matter who wins. Now, before you label me an equivocating sap, let me explain.

If Andy wins, I’ll be happy because, quite frankly, he deserves it. Andy has performed amazingly in race after race, and it’s not his fault that cross country’s most important meet occurs in North Louisiana during temperate November instead of South Louisiana in sultry September, when he’d be an almost guaranteed shoo-in for a first place finish. Besides that, if Andy does win, he’ll be continuing his time honored tradition of making me look stupid, which will amuse a lot of people, even me.

If Jonathan wins, we’ll have the Rocky story, cross country style, a tale of a scrappy kid from the boondocks whose work ethic enables him to blow into town and trounce his elite, ballyhooed adversaries.

As for Brett, let me tell you a little story. At the District Championships, just yards from the finish line, Brett uncharacteristically looked me dead in the eye. I think Brett had read my online speculation about his newly gained muscle mass possibly slowing him down, and he was wondering if I had joined the ranks of envious Jesuit haters. Obviously, my reaction to the champ’s stare must have indicated to him that this wasn’t the case, so Brett quickly diverted his attention and breezed to victory in his typical aloof, regal manner. Yes, an upset win by an upstart underdog may inspire us when we face overwhelming odds in our daily lives, but there’s also a side of us which wants to believe in, and recognize, established greatness. It’s that instinct which causes residents of places like Oshkosh, Wisconsin to become rabid supporters of the New York Yankees.

That just about wraps it up. Barring some unforeseen calamity, I’ll be in Natchitoches to provide some mementos of these athletes’ achievements via photography. Best of luck to all the competitors.

P.S. I've just been reviewing the photographs from the Catholic League District Championships, and I have to admit that certain photos of Brett from earlier in the season have been misleading. Guidry's build hasn't changed nearly as much as I thought, so all my talk about his bulking up and slowing down was asinine.