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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Kelly Brown La Maison - Track & Field/Cross Country 1998-2002
Success breeds success for La Maison
By Bruce Brown
Every step along the way, it seems Kelly Brown La Maison was in the right place at the right time.
The former UL Ragin' Cajun distance runner has funneled that lifetime of experience into success as a cross country mentor and track and field coach at both the college and high school levels.
And, with a background like that, she figures she is right where she needs to be in life.
“People ask me, 'What would you do if you didn't coach track?' and I tell them I can't imagine doing anything else,” La Maison said. “There's nothing that gives me a better feeling than being out there with my athletes.
“I don't know of anything else I'd like to do.”
That's fine with the students and staff at Teurlings Catholic High School, which she joined in the spring of 2016 after four years as an assistant with UL's Ragin; Cajuns.
In last year's LHSAA State Cross Country Meet, the Rebels won the Class 4A team title with 62 points to runner-up Belle Chasse's 89, following the fourth place 16:55.3 of sophomore Cameron Kelly.
La Maison served as assistant to Pilar Bursin in that effort, while her Lady Rebels placed sixth in girls' action behind runner-up Lexi Guidry (18:55.5), who is back again this year as a top threat.
Rebels have won state crowns in wrestling, baseball and volleyball, and usually contend for honors in football and other sports. It's a positive atmosphere for success.
Numbers in the track and field programs weren't robust when La Maison arrived, but a welcoming staff made it plain they wanted her programs to grow and compete.
“We're all pretty close,” La Maison said. “It's like one big family. We're all excited to see each other succeed. We have programs with a lot of success. Kent Masson (wrestling) would give you the shirt off his back, and he inspires you. Terry Hebert (volleyball) is very humble despite all his titles.
“We all want the school to succeed as a collective.”
La Maison knew early that coaching was in her blood.
It began when her father David Brown encouraged her to be an active kid.
“He inspired us to be more than we were,” La Maison said. “He would go running after work to decompress from the job, and he encouraged me to ride alongside with him on my bicycle.
“He was available to us, and that meant a lot to me.”
David Brown had a background as a hurdler, and that later helped his daughter break new ground as a collegiate athlete.
“My two favorite races were the mile, and the steeplechase because the steeple has got hurdles in it,” she said. “It was the first time they ever let women run the steeplechase in college, and I wanted to try it.
“I was better in the mile, but still enjoyed the steeple.”
Soon there were other adult influences – coaches like Charles Lancon, Doug Stewart and former Cajun runner Tom Nolan – who showed the path to leadership could be rewarding, as well as the late Tony Robicheaux at UL.
“I knew Doug Stewart's daughter, Adrienne, since I was a freshman in high school at Lafayette High – a long time,” La Maison said. “He scared the daylights out of me, with those blue eyes, but he was really a teddy bear. I loved what he did.
“I had so much respect for Tom Nolan and what he stood for as an athlete and coach. He epitomized cross country and track.
“I worked with some good people. When I was at UL, I had Tony next door at baseball, and I'd go have coffee with him in the morning and hear his philosophy on life. It made me a better person.”
Then, of course, there was Lancon, the steadfast, quiet leader who produced winning high school programs at Northside and Lafayette High and a dominant one at UL in the 1990's.
Lancon died of a heart attack during the 2002 season, and his underdog squad nearly won another title in his memory.
“We finished second the last year I was there,” La Maison said. “We thought we had won, but then didn't. We dedicated the meet to him. I had the best mile I ever had.”
It's little surprise, then, that La Maison requested the right to take over the former Tom Nolan Invitational high school meet and built it around memories of Nolan, Stewart and Lancon as the SNL Invitational.
“Tim Lemaire (LHS coach, ex-Cajun standout) and I wanted to do anything we could do,” she said.
Bitten by the coaching bug
“I knew I wanted to coach,” La Maison said. “I majored in exercise science, to be a physical therapist because the money was better, but I worked under Robin Judice at a summer cross country camp and fell in love with it.
“I guess I fell into it naturally. I always have been a 'pepper upper' for teammates, to help them find themselves. I tried to be like that as a teammate. I always had goals. You can always run a faster time.
“When I became a coach you use bits and pieces of things you've learned along the way. You learn new technologies and modalities, whatever works best for your group.
“We've made a lot of progress at Teurlings. We're not just jogging in line for two or three miles. We're bringing more and more people to the state meet.”
La Maison competed at UL from 1998-2002, coached Simon Domingue to statewide success during a 2005-2007 stint at Academy of Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, coached at Lafayette High (2007-2011) and was a Cajun assistant from 2012-2016 before moving to TCHS.
Now the mother of four active, athletic children (boys Landon, Jaxon and Chase and daughter Kennedy), she encourages them to join her during her runs. The Pied Piper approach worked before, and what goes around can always come around the bend one more time.
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Click here for the photo gallery of the 2002 Track & Field Team.
Pictured below is the 2000 Lady Cajun Track & Field Team.
Click here to view Kelly's Athletic Network Profile.
Click here for the 2007-present chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.
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