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BOBBY ARDOIN

Editor/Consulting Writer

Rheagan Butler reviewed an impressive short list of college track program options for advancing her athletic career before choosing the one she feels meets all her requirements.

Initially Southern Mississippi and the University of Arkansas were possibilities, Butler said on Saturday, but ultimately it was McNeese State that captured her attention.

Butler, who hosted a late afternoon signing party at In-da-Mix Ice Cream, said she expects to perform in the Cowboys’  women’s sprint and jumping events, like she did quite successfully at Opelousas Catholic.

It’s been a celebratory three months for Butler, who in May won a Division IV state long jump championship for a second straight year. Butler also placed second in the 100 meters at the state meet..

Sprints and jumps have become signature events for Butler, who was also a starting outfielder on the Vikings’ Division IV select state champion softball team.

Butler anticipates competing in the short running distances for McNeese in addition to continuing in the long jump. Possibly Butler said, there might be a chance she could be featured at some point in the high jump and decathlon.

All of that is still in front of her, Butler added, as she welcomed guests who entered the business on South Union Street in Opelousas.

Looking back on the recruiting experience, Butler said Southern Miss offered only a textbook stipend, while the program at Arkansas lacked the proper “vibe” that she required.

McNeese particularly took notice, said Butler, after her uncle highlighted her abilities with a social media presentation.

However the McNeese recruiting experience was different, Butler noted.

“It’s located in a small town and I won’t really have to adapt. The coaches there were friendly and welcoming, something that overall made the program there feel like it was family, a good fit,” said Butler.

The Cowboys’ track coaches were also an attractive element, Butler said.

Butler described McNeese head track coach Brendon Gilroy as friendly and outgoing, as are Cowboys’ assistants Lathaniel Jeanlouis (sprints) and Ben Chretien (jumps).

Gilroy, a former Louisiana high school track coach whose Iowa High teams won two state championships, has been a fixture at McNeese for 15 years. In 2022 the Cowboys were the Southland Conference indoor and outdoor champions.

This summer Butler has been working several days weekly at the Opelousas High facility.

The workouts typically include a mixture of middle and short distance running in addition to working in the long jump pit, Butler pointed out.

Butler said the training sessions have been self-designed, with no oversight yet from McNeese.

Her introduction to McNeese workouts, Butler said, probably won’t occur until late July.

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