With UNO's distance-running teams having ascended to the top of the Southland Conference, coach Brock Moreaux decided to get back into road racing, which he'd done before helping build the program.
Moreaux, the Southland's 2022 Coach of the Year after the UNO women won the cross-country championship in the fall, is entered into Saturday's Crescent City Classic 10K race. He will join nine UNO runners — four men and five women.
This year's CCC begins at 8 a.m. Saturday in its traditional spot in front of the Caesars Superdome, and it finishes, as usual in City Park. But the race will have a different feel.
Other large-scale races in the U.S. have jockeyed to bring in more elite runners. The increased competition to get commitments from some of the world's fastest 10K athletes all but forced the CCC to leave out the elite class in a cost-saving measure.
The upshot is that some of the best local and regional runners have a legitimate chance to win the Crescent City Classic, one of the South's premier 10K races since its inception in 1979.
“I understand this may be an opportunity for locals to get the claim to fame, but I do hope that eventually they will bring the elite runners back,” Moreaux said.
“But the CCC also recognizes the locals. And (being among) the top local runners is a well-sought-after-type thing in New Orleans.”
Moreaux, 31, said this is part of checking something off his bucket list before it's too late.
“Finally, I feel like I'm getting back in a little shape,” said Moreaux, a former Southland champion in the steeplechase at McNeese State. “Most of my years, I've had the goal of running a marathon. I plan to run one in June in San Diego with the hopes of qualifying for Boston.
“We are in outdoor track now, so we kind of have an off weekend. So we can use the Crescent City Classic as a nice little workout.”
The competitor still resides in him — although Moreaux, originally from New Iberia, is realistic. After minor surgery to remove a cyst from his calf in November, he began training in December, then ramped it up January. Winning the Shamrockin' 8K race in Audubon Park on St. Patrick's Day was a great CCC tuneup, he said, although it didn't come against the level of competition he'll face Saturday.
“I'll first have to get past my (UNO) athletes, which will be difficult,” said Moreaux, who's in his first year as head coach after serving as assistant coach since 2018. “Kolyn Saltzman is a 10-time Southland champion in his four years, and he's become the face of the program's resurgence.”
The nine Privateers who have entered the race “just want to beat coach,” Moreaux said. “I told them if they beat me, it's because I've become a better coach than an athlete.”
Moreaux, however, has his share of road-racing experience against top competition. After running distances and cross country at Delcambre High School, he walked on at McNeese. He improved each year on the way to the steeplechase title in 2015. He finished with a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's degree in health and human performance. He then moved to The Woodlands, Texas, just north of Houston, where he got a job and ran with an Adidas-sponsored high-level running team.
During his post-collegiate career, he won the Cajun Cup 10K race in Lafayette. Later, he was sixth in the Carlsbad 5K in California, which attracts elite runners. One of his best performances came after that in the State Street Mile in Santa Barbara, California.
“The big thing in running is a sub-4 minute mile,” he said. “I finished in 3:58. That is one of my most proud moments.”
In New Orleans, he has won the Turkey Day 5-mile run twice.
This will be his second CCC, having run it in 2017. He'd like to get a measure of redemption.
“I was just starting as a college coach, becoming a volunteer assistant at the University of Oklahoma,” he said, chuckling. “It was one of those days where it was really hot and humid. I'd just come from Oklahoma, where the weather was cooler, and maybe I lost my humidity adapt that I used to have.”
Moreaux said two locals to watch are Richard Bouchaert on the men's side and Michelle Parks, a former 2020 Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon, on the women's side.