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Ms. Gretchen Dore'

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Francois’ high jump plateau still stands

bbrown@theadvertiser.com • Talk about pushing the envelope. • May 5, 2010

Bruce Brown
Iota’s Gretchen Francois became the first high school girl in Louisiana history to surpass 6-0 in the high jump, clearing that mark at the LHSAA State Meet in 1994, and she’s still the only one over that height some 16 years later.

That’s like pushing the envelope and then sealing it shut.

Francois is now Gretchen Dore’, a married mother of three sports-minded boys and a middle school basketball coach. But the spring of 1994 remains clear.

“I just remember that I kept increasing it by 2 inches in every meet, from district to regional to state,” Dore’ said. “When I think back on it, I wonder how I did that.”

The remarkable finish was capped at LSU’s Bernie Moore Stadium.

“They made an announcement that I hadn’t missed at any height yet, and that I was about to attempt 6 feet,” Dore’ said. “And I was thinking, ‘Way to psyche a person out!’ I remember my family being there, and how special that was. ”

Dore’ was destined to be a high jumping pioneer, which is notable because track and field was not her main interest at the time.

“Basketball was my principal sport,” Dore’ said. “Track had such a short season. In basketball, we started in summer and practiced until the very end. I guess I didn’t understand what track was until I got to college and experienced the intense practice.”

Dore’ signed with UL’s Ragin’ Cajuns, mainly to work with assistant coach and jump guru Irving “Boo” Schexnayder. When Schexnayder left for LSU the following year, Dore’ followed him there.

“Looking back, I kind of missed playing basketball, but I was really blessed to have the opportunity to be coached by the best,” said Dore’, whose best collegiate clearance was 6-1.25 at a meet in Colorado her senior year.

She now lives in Egan with her husband Jake, who she met years ago after an Iota-Notre Dame basketball game. A 6th grade teacher in Mermentau, Dore’ also coaches girls basketball at St. Francis, a K-8 elementary school in Iota.

“I guess I always knew I would coach,” Dore’ said. “I majored in fitness studies at LSU, then went back and got my teaching certificate. I love it. The thing I learned the most as an athlete is teamwork, and that’s something I try to teach to the girls.

“Athletics makes you strong, and helps you fight through things.”

The three boys — the oldest is 9 — are into every sport in season.

“If you ask me, I’d say it just comes from me,” Dore’ said with a laugh.

“I don’t attend a lot of track meets,” Dore’ said. “My junior high girls (and the three sons) take up most of my time. We go out and play sometimes at the track. If they high jump, I hope they do better than 6-0. It’s not too good for a boy.”