In 2012, Vandebilt Catholic standout runner Alexa Breaux was 1.2 seconds away from being the Class 4A State Cross Country Champion, losing to St. Thomas More’s Hannah Bourque in a dead-sprint at the finish line.
Two years later, Breaux left no doubt. She was easily the best female cross country runner in Class 4A – winning the championship race by almost 30 seconds.
Breaux captured the Individual State Championship on Tuesday afternoon at the LHSAA State Cross Country Meet in Natchitoches. To bring home the title, Breaux ran a time of just more than 19 minutes and 4 seconds, enough to easily outlast Class 4A runner-up Kaitlin Tanner of Loyola Prep. Bourque finished third this go-round, 33 seconds behind the 2014 champ.
“I got on the track near the finish line, and I was just running as fast as I could,” Breaux said with a smile on Thursday afternoon – two days removed from her historic feat. “I just couldn’t help but smile when I finally finished, because I realized that I had finally reached my goal. Finally, I was a cross country state champion.”
For Breaux, wearing the state championship medal is a feat several years in the making.
Breaux’s first year of competition at Vandebilt came in 2011 when she was in the eighth grade. She finished 49th in Class 4A that year and said she gained a lot of valuable lessons that she carries with her on the track today.
Those lessons were on full display in 2012 when Breaux entered the state meet as one of the favorites to bring home the title.
She said that she battled Bourque tooth and nail on that day, sprinting to the finish line with her friend and rival, finishing just a hair short.
“I came up short. I lost by one second,” Breaux said looking back to that day in her freshman year. “It came down to a sprint on the track. I said to myself, ‘I don’t want that to ever happen to me again.’”
In 2013, Breaux said she didn’t feel that she ran her best on the day of the State Meet, finishing fifth behind Champion Carley Boyce, Bourque, Tanner and Haley Gregoire of St. Michael.
But as the 2014 year got under way, it looked like Breaux would have to wait until her senior year to chase her goal. That’s because the Vandebilt junior suffered a stress fracture in her right foot over the past summer – an ailment that sidelined the runner for several weeks.
“Before the season even started, I had a clear goal – I wanted to be the state champion,” Breaux said. “But when I had to sit down with my injury in August, I’ll be honest – I didn’t know if I could reach my goal.”
Breaux said she sat out the first several meets of the Lady Terriers’ season, something that caused her a lot of angst and discomfort. She said the competitor inside of her hurt more than her foot did, adding that she wanted badly to be on the track with her team.
“It was really hard having to be on the side just watching my team run,” Breaux said. “I always wanted to be out there to lead them. I really missed it, and I really missed just being able to compete alongside my teammates – that’s something that really motivated me.”
Breaux said she was cleared by doctors to train at 100 percent output in early October. From there, she spent the next several weeks getting back into shape, leading into her season debut at the South Lafourche Relays on Oct. 22.
She won that race. It was a microcosm for the whole season, because Breaux won every race she competed in during the regular season, taking an undefeated record into the 2014 State Meet.
“I think the timing was just right,” Breaux said. “I got back and I was able to make an impact and I was able to lead my team again. I think the way it all happened, it just fell into place. Our team really did a great job, and I was so relieved to be able to help them out again.”
At the state meet, Breaux was still considered a bit of an underdog because she had missed a few early-season opportunities to run against Bourque, Tanner and several of the other state powers in 4A.
“I liked that,” she said. “I knew I had a chance to sneak in and take people by surprise.”
She said that she felt good about her chances at the one-mile mark of the 3.1-mile race, adding that she didn’t feel fatigued.
“I knew pretty early in the race that I had a good shot,” Breaux said. “I got out of the pack early and put myself in pretty good position.”
By the two-mile mark, Breaux said Bourque had sagged back, and it was just she and Tanner left in serious contention.
As she made her way to the track and prepared for the final few hundred yards of the race, Breaux said she looked over her shoulder and saw the most beautiful sight any cross country competitor can ever hope see.
“I didn’t see anything,” she said with a laugh. “No one was close to me.”
Not wanting to leave anything to chance, she still sprinted to the finish line, easily outlasting the competition to win the state title.
As a team, Vandebilt finished second in Class 4A, nine points behind St. Thomas More who won the team title with 64 total points.
Breaux said she’s grateful to have gotten over the hump, adding that her main focus is now getting better this offseason so that she can attempt to win it again as a senior.
Next time, she hopes to be hoisting two trophies – an individual title and also a teamwide championship.
“I hope to do this again this time next year,” she said. “I finished close two times, so why can’t I win it two times?”
Vandebilt runner Alexa Breaux poses with the team’s State Runner-Up trophy. Around Breaux’s neck is her state championship medal earned after bringing home the Class 4A State Cross Country title.