Lauren Cantrelle runs her final race as a Berwick High School student last month in the 3,200-meter run at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Track and Field Meet at LSU. Cantrelle placed fourth in the 3,200-meter run and finished second in the 1,600-meter run. (The Daily Review/File Photo)
Free of injuries, Cantrelle's senior season was one to remember
Lauren Cantrelle may have concluded her Berwick High School track and field career last month with two top-five finishes in Class 3A at the state track and field meet, including a state runner-up finish in the 1,600-meter run, but there was a time when she didn’t even know if she should continue running.
Cantrelle said as a 14-year-old, she was told by an orthopedic surgeon that she should give up running.
“He said basically, ‘running’s not for you,’” Cantrelle recalled last month. “He said that I should play softball or volleyball, just something.”
Cantrelle said she was told her body was unable to handle running.
“I almost quit then, but I’m glad I didn’t,” Cantrelle said.
Indeed, adversity has been prevalent in Cantrelle’s high school running career as she has spent time with physical therapists, orthopedic doctors and surgeons trying to get healthy.
“Just anybody I could get to help me,” said Cantrelle, who has worn boots and used crutches as she has been sidelined at times in her high school career.
She said, “Just about everything you could have imagined going wrong kind of went wrong for me, but I’m just happy to be here now. All that’s in the past. I’m a different person now.”
Berwick High School Track and Field Coach Paul Gilder said prior to the state meet that this season was the first that Cantrelle actually had a full season of competition in high school after coming into high school having run around a 6:08 minute mile in junior high.
Despite a late start to her outdoor season as a junior, Gilder said that you could see some good things last year in a season that Cantrelle qualified for regionals.
With an injury-free senior season, Cantrelle started off the season with about a 5:41 mile in her first meet, Gilder said, which excited the coaching staff.
She continued her solid season, breaking the school record in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:30.25 at the St. Mary Parish High School Relays March 29 at Berwick High School.
The previous record holder? Her co-worker, Michelle Thibodaux Williams, a former Berwick track and field distance standout who Cantrelle works with at Skipper’s for Sports.
Williams and Cantrelle became friends through work, and Williams has provided a source of support for Cantrelle.
Williams had owned the mile record since 1988 when she ran the race in 5:32.59.
Knowing Cantrelle’s talents, Williams pushed Cantrelle to break her record.
“I wanted her to beat my record,” Williams said last month, seated with Cantrelle in the Skipper’s shoe department. “It’s been 30 years. … I was proud of her when she started, and every time she was four seconds closer and then, next thing you know, she got it.”
Williams, who went on to win a state title in the mile run after breaking the record in 1988, said she didn’t think the record would have stood for 30 years.
Cantrelle went on to better her mile record at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Region II-3A meet this season where she ran a time of 5:26.87 before breaking her record again at the state meet with a time of 5:23.31.
She also finished fourth at the state meet in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 12:32.81.
Cantrelle said that prayer and therapy helped her have an injury-free senior season in cross country and track.
“Finally coming into track and being able to actually train from December until the start of track season and then all the way through to make it to state just made a huge difference,” she said. “Actually being able to train how everyone else does for once, I just felt like I could actually do what I needed to do to compete.”
Also in her senior track season, Cantrelle broke the Berwick school record in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:25.70, bettering the mark of 2:25.7 that had been set by the former Becky Scarbrough in 1988.
Throughout everything, Cantrelle maintained a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom, too.
Now that she has graduated high school, Cantrelle will be continuing her running career in cross country and track and field at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where she plans to study Kinesology.
She hopes to eventually attend physical therapy school and one day help those who had many of the same injuries she endured.
“I don’t want anyone else to get told that running’s not for them or their sport’s not for them, because that’s just not right,” she said.