David Wheeler on High School Sports – XC

The Mississippi high school State Cross Country Meet has been going strong since the sport became official in the state in 1978.
Dare I say I even ran in that first one.
On Saturday, the 2012 edition will have the gun fire for 12 different races at Mississippi College’s Choctaw Trails in Clinton, and Northeast Mississippi will have its share of schools making a run at a title.
In today’s (Friday’s) edition of the Journal, I had a basic rundown of each classification.
But for lack of room, I did talk to four coaches this week in the lead up to the state meet. I might be rehashing some information, but let us go through each class.
In Class 6A, the Tupelo Lady Wave have won 11 straight titles – certainly one of the most impressive runs in any sport this corner of the state has surely seen. Number 12 Saturday?
Sophomore Christina Daniels is also the defending 6A individual champion, and after a slow start to the season, is poised to challenge again.
“I think the girls are really prepared, and have worked hard the last month or so,” Tupelo Lady Wave head coach Anna Sloan said. “We’re taking anybody lightly.”
Tupelo’s challenging schedule had the Lady Wave running more than its share of 5k’s, whereas in Mississippi, the state meet course is a 4K. Once the Lady Wave got into 4K-only meets at the end of the season, they moved into the No. 1 ranking in the state (ms.milesplit.com).
A lot of positive momentum here heading to Clinton.
Daniels should be joined in the drive for 12 by Callie Watson, Madison Nash, Sabrina Hudgins, Faith Pannel, Hannah Delambert, and Mika Takahashi.
Sloan says to watch out for No. 2 Madison Central, and Ocean Springs.
In 6A boys, the Golden Wave are almost on the same streak, having won 10 titles in the last 11 seasons.
“It looks like everybody is going to be able to run,” Wave head coach Jonathan Begnaud said. “We won’t be 100 per cent, but we should be close enough to do what we need to do.”
Of course the health is of primary concern for the Tupelo boys. The last scheduled meet of the season, top Tupelo runner Andrew White sat out because of a nagging injury. But the junior should be ready to go Saturday.
Some might remember that White broke a toe on a foot the same week as last year’s state meet, gutted out the 3.1 miles, and finished 9th overall.
Now here is the irony – another of Tupelo’s top runners, Michael Robinson, broke the same toe on the same foot doing the same thing as White three weeks ago. But Begnaud reports Robinson will run.
I should think so, the standard has been set for broken toes on this team already.
“We need to have our guys in the middle run together, and be competitive,” Begnaud said. “We need them to race the entire 5000 meters.”
Rounding out the Tupelo boys should be Max Lawson, Eli Buford, Corey Batson, and Jordan McKay.
In 5A, the No. 4 Saltillo Lady Tigers have won four straight.
“I do think we have some added pressure because we have some seniors that will graduate from this team,” Saltillo head coach Charles Covington said. “They want to end their career like they started it.”
Covington expects to be challenged by No. 7 Oxford, with No. 5 Starkville and No. 10 Pearl potentially offering a stiff test.
In 5A boys, No. 2 Saltillo ended its season strong with a win over Tupelo. The Tigers also look to break its current streak of finishing second four times in-a-row. Ken Gassaway of Saltillo and Joseph McGowan of Starkville have two of the best 5A times entering the meet.
Ah, here is Class 4A.
The buck here usually stops with Pontotoc and Mike Bain. The veteran Pontotoc head coach has won 32 state titles in cross country, which in my mind makes him the most successful coach in any sport in Mississippi!
And currently, both the boys and girls have won three straight.
The Lady Warriors wee ranked No. 1 in the state most of this season, before Tupelo and Madison Central passed them late. Certainly, they are favored here.
I think the 4A girls individual race could be very exciting, with the likes of Corinth’s Yvette Evans, Lafayette’s Peyton Hamann, and Pontotoc’s Elizabeth Lunn contending. And I marvel at how the Pontotoc girls run in a pack formation most meets, truly impressive runners in this race.
“We’ve had a great season, and we’ve run with the best in the state,” Bain said of the girls. “I feel the competition in this area is the best in the state, and that’s going to help us.
In the boys, No. 6 Pontotoc’s run of titles might be over, facing a stiff test from No. 5 St. Stanislaus.
“I think we’re going into this meet as the No. 2 4A team,” Bain said. “St. Stanislaus should go in favored.”
Wyatt Scott of St. Stanislaus is also one of the favored individually, but Pontotoc’s Brayden Timmons to help his team’s point total with a high finish.
Class 3A: In boys, No. 10 Kossuth is the top-ranked area team. Kossuth finished second a year ago.
In girls, No. 13 Mooreville is in title contention, with Kendra Sanders and Rachel Anderson after individual honors.
Class 2A: The No. 28 East Union girls are defending champs, but should have strong contention from No. 17 Hickory Flat and No. 18 New Site. Individually, New Site’s Sydney Presley is the defending champ.
In boys, No. 14 Hickory Flat and No. 18 Potts Camp will give the area a 2A presence.
Class 1A: Defending champion No. 20 Myrtle girls will again battle No. 23 West Union, with No. 27 TCPS in the running.
No. 38 Ingomar and No. 40 TCPS lead the area boys’ chances.

David Wheeler has been contributing to the high school sports coverage of the Daily Journal since 1985.

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