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Vandy runner smiles to success

Vandebilt Catholic freshman Alexa Breaux has emerged as one of the top female cross-country runner in the area. (Photo by File Photo)

In coaching track and cross country at Vandebilt Catholic for over a decade, David Malone has seen a variety of facial expressions and emotions when his runners cross the finish line.

Most of those looks aren't so pleasant.

But when Lady Terriers freshman runner Alexa Breaux comes sailing through, the look on her face is always the same.

"Nothing really seems to phase her," Malone said. "She smiles at the beginning of a race, and she smiles at the end of race. When she doesn't do well, you can tell that she is disappointed, but she doesn't carry it into the next day or the next race. She is very humble, and after, you would never know she just won a race of 200 girls."

Breaux has done a lot of winning this cross-country season. She has taken individual crowns in three of the local races she has competed in and placed fifth twice in two major meets in Baton Rouge, which both featured some of the top runners in all classes.

In her latest race she ran 19 minutes, 40 seconds at a 2.9-mile course race in Baton Rouge hosted by St. Joseph's Academy over the weekend.

Last year, Breaux was sick at the Class 4A state meet and placed 49th overall, but this year, the goals are much higher for last year's girls Terrebonne Parish and District 8-4A champion.

Malone said running in the low-mid 18-minute range on the 3-mile course at the state meet in Natchitoches on Nov. 13 could leave Breaux as the girls 4A state champions.

"She has been running in the (19-minute range), and her goal is probably to get under 19 somewhere," Malone said. "She wants to get in the 18:50s and keep going down from there. She wants to win parish and be a district champion, and we want her to be a state champion. There's no doubt about it. She knows she can do it."

Breaux first began running cross county as an eighth grader last year.

"When I first started, I didn't know how good I was going to be. I didn't do so well at my first few meets, but I got better," Breaux said. "I just kept trying to get better. My coaches and family always support me and help me with everything. They are always there for me."

Malone said toward the end of last cross-country season is when the petit Breaux became a running force for the Lady Terriers.

"She kind of came out of nowhere," Malone said. "When she started last year, she was kind of middle of the pack, my No. 4 or 5 runner, but with about four weeks to go in the season, she just kind of exploded onto the scene. She became my No. 1 runner. She started competing at the top of races, and started winning races."

Running track (the mile and 2-mile last year), helped Breaux improve her time this cross country season.

"Track is more of speed thing," Malone said. "It is harder to wear people out on the track. I think it really prepared her for this season. She surprised a lot of people on the track (running a 2-mile best 12:35 and a mile best 5:57)."

Malone said Breaux is self-motivated.

"She is doing it herself. She trains (at school) and runs at home. You can see it in her eyes," Malone said. "She wants to be the best, and she is working to be the best. She is the best young runner we have had in about 10 years — the way she is running races and winning races. We have had good female runners, but nothing like Alexa has done in winning her races."

Breaux said her love affair with running helps make her good at it.

"You definitely have to love it," Breaux said. "If not, you aren't going to want to go out on the weekends and push yourself."

Some young runners, especially female runners, peak early in their high school careers.

"With girls they always seem to be better when they are younger because they have not matured yet. It seems like the older they get, they seem to slow down," Malone said. "But Alexa is built to where I think she will be able to run this well for most of her career. Hopefully she will buck the trend of a lot of good young runners."

But Malone said Breaux has all the qualities to continue to get better.

"It takes drive and mental ability," Malone said. "She has the physical and mental makeup of a great runner. She's a great athlete, but she is even a better person. She listens. She does exactly what her coaches tell her to do. There is never a complaint from her, and there is always a smile on her face."

Breaux, who said she would like to run in college and does local 5K races on the weekends, said no matter what direction her running career goes in, she plans to just keep on running.

"Sometimes people do plateau. If it happens, I just need to try and keep running and not get discouraged because I love running," Breaux said with what else but a smile on her face.