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The Boys Cross Country Team at St. John Paul II Catholic High School or JPII won the state championship for the second consecutive year. PHOTO / DENISE SCHOVEL

JPII Cross Country captures first back-to-back state titles

HUNTSVILLE – The 5A Boys Cross Country Team at St. John Paul II Catholic High School or JPII captured the school’s first ever back-to-back state championships on Nov. 14.

The Falcons won with a team total of 61 points. Adam Gautreaux, who finished in fifth place, was captain for the team. Other top finishers for JPII were Brandon Cianfaglione, 7th; Joseph Faust, 14th; Jack Roberts, 19th; and Tom Custodio, 24th.

The JPII Falcons have been contenders for the title since 2015. They earned second place from 2015 through 2018 and nabbed the first championship last year.

“The boys ran exactly like we told them to. We told them to not worry about their individual times but instead just race,” Coach Stephen Boyer said about the team’s mindset. “Relax through first mile then turn the race into a two-mile race.”

“At the two-mile point, we were still behind UMS Wright but closing fast. Our boys knew we owned the third mile and ran confidently,” Boyer said.

Only 68 seconds separated JPII’s top five runners. “That was the difference. Coach Steve Zibas and I are really pleased with the hard work and discipline these runners have shown this year,” Boyer said.

“Adam Gautreaux and Brandon Cianfaglione capped off fantastic cross country careers, winning back-to-back state championships and each being named All State,” Boyer said. “JPII Junior Joseph Faust also earned All State and is excited about going for a ‘three-peat’ next year.”

JPII Girls Cross Country Team also had a strong showing at the state meet. Ella Zierdt took the top spot for the girls from JPII with a sixth-place finish.

The other notable finishes for the Falcons were Jessica Cianfaglione, 15th; Evelyn Detwiler, 36th; Valerie Wiegmann, 37th; Olivia Hutchins, 45th; and Averiel Brininger, 53rd. The girls tallied 107 points, which earned them a fourth-place finish.

Senior Ella Zierdt, in her first cross country season, also earned All State and recorded her school-record time. Jessica Cianfaglione also earned All State and will lead a team next season that only graduates two seniors.

For more information, visit jp2falcons.org.

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