Burney bummed after near miss, Key proud following fourth-place finale

STRONG FINISH:  Byrd senior Jenna Key posted her best-ever state meet time in her final LHSAA Cross Country Championships appearance. (Journal photo by DOUG IRELAND)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES –  Calvary’s Jackson Burney had the best finish of any local competitor at Monday’s LHSAA Cross Country Championships, but the Cavaliers’ junior wasn’t particularly pleased with being the runner-up.

Byrd’s Jenna Key recorded her best career state championship time and a much-improved finish in her final high school meet, and the senior was very happy about it.

On an overcast, cool day at Northwestern State’s Walter P. Ledet Track Complex, south Louisiana runners and teams dominated top honors for team and individual finishes. But with Burney and Key leading the way, there were good performances by Caddo-Bossier athletes.

Parkway’s boys had the best team finish locally, taking third in Division I (116 points) behind the Battle of New Orleans that lived up to billing, with Jesuit placing its five scoring runners in the top 10, sweeping the top two spots, in a 27-32 victory over Catholic League rival Brother Martin. Those teams combined for nine of the top 10 individual finishers.

Tripp Roemer of Loyola earned a bronze medal in the Division III boys race with a 15:58.35 time, leading a ninth-place team finish for the Flyers (225 points). Roemer was seeded ninth entering the race.

Burney entered his three-mile race in Division IV as the fifth seed in the MileSplit Louisiana rankings, and barely fell short of winning the state title.

But he was having a hard time feeling very proud about finishing second. Talan Sievers, a Lafayette Christian Academy freshman whose father competed collegiately at NSU, and Burney battled back and forth before Sievers’ finishing kick was decisive on the final 300 meters of the track oval.

“We went out in 4:50-something (for the first mile), and I fell back a little bit in the second mile. I tried to catch him,” said Burney. “I think I passed him too early, and he had more left than me.”

Sievers won in 15:40.46 while Burney crossed three seconds later (15:43.87).

It was a bittersweet end to a strong season by Burney, who carved over 40 seconds off his personal record with a 15:35 clocking at Catholic of Baton Rouge a few weeks ago. His progress, he said, was based on a couple of core discoveries this fall.

“Sometimes I have more than I think I have left,” he sa5id. “And, hard work pays off.”

Key, who lowered the Byrd school record recently, finished fourth individually after taking ninth last year. She was second in 2021 as a sophomore, when she clocked 18:16. Monday she ran her best time at the state meet, 18:05.

“I’m happy with it. I always want to do better, especially when I feel I have more in the tank, but not every day is going to be perfect,” she said. “I’m just glad I get to finish off senior season on a high note. I’m really proud of my team and how far we’ve come.”

The Lady Jackets wrapped up their best season ever by finishing fourth in the team standings at 117 points. Key, the only Byrd runner in the top 10, is not ready to stop competing in cross country.

“I’ve been working really hard, and I’ve been healthy for several months now. I’m having fun, and hopefully I can continue a collegiate career somewhere,” she said.

Caddo Magnet’s boys were ninth (328 points) in Division II competition.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com