ZACHARY – Much like Zachary High sprinter Indya Jackson hones in on the finish line, Broncos track and field coach Chris Carrier is quick getting to the point when talking about the awards that have come his way since the end of the season.
Carrier guided the Broncos to the LHSAA/Allstate Sugar Bowl track and field meet in May, where they swept both the boys and girls Class 5A titles. That came on the heels of strong showing at the indoor state meet, which featured a win for the girls and a second place showing by the boys.
For his team’s efforts, Carrier was recently honored as Louisiana’s Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association which announced its state-by-state winners for the fifth straight year.
Carrier was selected as Louisiana’s girls high school track and field Coach of The Year, his second designation in five years. Episcopal’s Claney Duplechin was the boys’ winner, and he and Carrier will both be in the running when the USTFCCCA names its national winners later this month.
“We had an outstanding year with boys and girls winning the district, regional and state (outdoors) meets,” Carrier said. “The girls were indoor state champions, the boys were runner-up, and that award is just recognition of what we’ve been able to do since January.”
The award puts Carrier in rare company, including that of mentor and longtime Catholic High coach Pete Boudreaux, the USTFCCA national boys coach of the year in 2016.
“The turning point for me (as a track coach), was being around Pete Boudreaux for nine years at Catholic High,” said Carrier, a former LSU football player who began his coaching career as a football assistant to Dale Weiner and a track assistant under Boudreaux. Carrier’s head coaching career began at Dutchtown, when the school hired him as its first track coach after it was founded in 2003.
After starting out with only freshman and sophomore classes, Dutchtown slowly gained steam, particularly with an infusion of talent after Hurricane Katrina. The Griffins’ girls were second at the 2009 state outdoor meet, and the boys were poised to win their first title a year later.
But first, Zachary came calling.
“Once I got to Zachary, I wanted to bring everything I learned at Catholic, everything I learned at Dutchtown, and put it together,” Carrier said. “With the talent we have, it just took a little organization.”
At a glance, experienced talent might have seemed to be lacking this season for the Lady Broncos, who needed to replace the points of graduated all-state performer Janie O’Connor. Instead, they put together a drama-packed campaign with two down-to-the-wire finishes in the state meets.
At the Division I indoor meet in February, Zachary needed to finish ahead of defending champion Lafayette in the final event - the 4x400 meter relay. Jackson passed Lafayette’s Angelle Primeaux on the final lap to take first and give them their third indoor title in the past four years.
The setting was similar at the outdoor meet in May. Again, the meet came down to the 4x400, as Zachary needed to overcome a two-point deficit against Lafayette.
With Monet McDaniels, Hailey Fisher and Zoa Adams handling the first three legs, Jackson anchored another winning relay while Lafayette placed fifth.
The outdoor title was the Lady Broncos fourth in five years.
“This particular year, everybody contributed,” Carrier said. “We had to win the 4x400 at the indoor and outdoor meets, and those girls did an unbelievable job. There were two freshmen (McDaniels and Adams) that, at the beginning of the year, we weren’t expecting them to help that much, but they ran well.”
Other key contributors included thrower Kristian Jackson, who won the shot put, jumper Orsciana Beard, and sprinters Kiara Bethley and Kayla Clifton.
The Zachary boys created excitement of their own, much of it on the running of sophomore Sean Burrell.
At the state indoor meet, Burrell set a meet record of 48.29 seconds in the 400. At the outdoor meet, he battled a tight hamstring, but still managed to win the 110 hurdles, run a leg on the winning 4x100 relay, and set a meet record in the 400 at 45.77.
With Burrell returning for the Zachary boys, along with a host of key contributors for the girls, there is no reason to doubt that Carrier will continue to make good on a promise he made to then East Baton Rouge school superintendent Warren Drake when he first arrived at Zachary.
“I told Mr. Drake, ‘I want to make track something that people in Zachary can be proud of,’” Carrier said. “We’ve been able to do that.”