By Gene Phelps / Daily Journal Oxford
The Mississippi High School Activities Association crowned 12 state champions in cross country last season.
Nine of those teams were from Northeast Mississippi.
Pontotoc coach Mike Bain, whose teams have won 35 state championships in cross country and track and field, isn’t surprised by the region’s success.
“We have schools who push their programs to be successful,” said Bain, who begins his 34th season on Saturday when his Warriors and Lady Warriors compete in the Tupelo Cross Country Invitational. “The kids also believe in the programs and make the sacrifices it takes to be successful.
“Most kids are not willing to run because of the pain involved.”
More than 25 boys and girls teams, representing 14 schools, are entered in the THS meet, scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. on the Golden Wave’s home course at Ballard Park with an open 5K.
The entry fee for the 5K is $10 with the proceeds going to the Golden Wave cross country program.
Included in the field are seven of the defending state champion teams: Tupelo boys and girls (6A), Saltillo girls (5A), Pontotoc boys and girls (4A) and Myrtle boys and girls (1A).
The boys teams from Kossuth (3A) and East Union (2A) are area state title winners not participating.
Other schools with teams participating in the meet are Corinth, East Union, Horn Lake, Oxford, Potts Camp, Ripley, Senatobia, Starkville, Tupelo Christian Prep and West Lauderdale.
The junior high boys and girls races kick off the meet at 4:45 and 5:15, following the 5K. The varsity girls compete at 5:45 (Classes 1-3A) and 6:15 (4-6A), followed by the varsity boys at 6:45 (1-3A) and 7:15 (4-6A).
Bain, 58, credits his program’s success to the athletes who run each year.
“You have to have top athletes,” he said. “You can’t win with average athletes. We were successful with our program early on and it has carried over year to year.”
Pontotoc’s boys and girls teams have a combined total of 60 runners, seventh through 12th grade.
“That’s not as big as Tupelo and Saltillo, but it’s a good number for a school our size,” Bain said.
Tupelo coach Nathan Hall welcomed 80 runners this fall as the Golden Wave boys and girls begin their run for their 10th consecutive state titles.
“Our girls team looks solid,” he said. “We’ve got some really good young runners.”
However, the Lady Wave looks to a senior, Katherine Steinman, for its leadership.
On the boys side, seniors Stephen Dudas, Harrison Campeau and Nolan Palladino return. Campeau won the team’s intrasquad meet last week.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wave Weekend activities
Football: New Hope at THS, 7:30 p.m.
Swimming: Tupelo Invitational, 10 a.m.
Volleyball: THS Volleyfest, 9 a.m.
Cross Country: Tupelo Invitational, 4