Eldridge leads St. Al’s cross country program into a new season and era

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, July 20, 2023

Last summer, Brad Eldridge served an unofficial apprenticeship as St. Aloysius’ cross country coach. Now he’s getting a chance to fully show what he learned.

Eldridge will take the reins this season from longtime coach Donald Roesch, who announced in May that he was stepping down after more than 20 years in the job.

“I hope that I can take up the torch where Donald left off and hopefully grow it from there,” Eldridge said. “That’s my plan, is see if I can make us better than we were before. That’s my goal.”

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Eldridge became Roesch’s unofficial assistant coach last season. Eldridge’s daughter Hendrix is on the team — she finished third at the MAIS state meet and won three races in 2022 — and he offered to help where he could in organizing practice and team activities.

When Roesch retired, Eldridge said he offered his services again.

“I was coming to every practice anyway, and every event, and just became a little more vocal with the kids,” Eldridge said. “When he decided to step down I figured they had had me in their ear for a year anyway, and I was going to all of the events and practices, so I felt like I could put a workout together and pour into the kids.”

Eldridge, who owns Parish Waterfowl Co. at 1102 Washington Street, said this is the first time he’s coached on the high school level. He married into a family of runners, however — his wife and sister-in-law are both former college cross country runners — and learned the nuances of the sport to try and keep up.

“They were a family of elite runners in Ruston, La. Whenever I met her she proved to be a much stronger runner than me and emasculated me. I had to go out and start learning how to run,” he said with a laugh.

Eldridge became a decent runner in his own right, able to complete a 5-kilometer race in less than 19 minutes, and occasionally joined Roesch and St. Al’s cross country team on training runs.

“Over the last couple of years, to stay in shape and have the accountability group, I found that was the easiest way to do it was to run the Park with them,” Eldridge said.

There are about 15 runners on St. Al’s roster. They started practice in late June and the first meet is scheduled for Aug. 19 in Natchez. Eldridge says he still has a lot of things to learn on the administrative end of coaching, like scheduling and making contacts with other coaches, but added Roesch plans to assist him on that front.

Once he gets his feet under him, Eldridge added he has plans for the future.

“What my goal is, is to create a culture around it being fun to run cross country,” he said. “We’re going to incorporate some things as the years go on. I want to do some run retreats where we go and run as a team for fun.”

Aug. 19 — Cathedral Tune Up (Natchez), 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — Victors Kickoff (Brandon), 10:30 a.m.
Sept. 2 — The Opener (Clinton), 8:45 a.m.
Sept. 16 — Warren Central Invitational (Vicksburg), 8 a.m.
Sept. 23 — Cedar Creek Invitational (Ruston, La.), 8 a.m.
Oct. 9 — Cathedral Invitational (Natchez), 4 p.m.
Oct. 14 — Watson HS Meet (Clinton), 9 a.m.
Oct. 23 — MAIS Championships (Clinton), TBA

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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