By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The expectations are high when it comes to Tupelo High School cross country. First-year Golden Wave coaches Anna Kathryn Sloan and Jonathan Begnaud know that.
The two are directing programs that have captured a combined 19 state championships in the last 10 seasons. The girls have won 10 straight while the 2010 boys team saw its streak end at nine.
“There was a changing of the guard … with the same goal in mind,” said Sloan, who coaches the Lady Wave. “We’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
Begnaud, a former Golden Wave cross country athlete (1999-2001), assisted former coach Nathan Hall last season. He said he appreciates the opportunity to coach a boys team he once competed on.
“I’m excited to get this shot,” he said. “I feel really lucky.”
Hall, who coached both teams, resigned last season to pursue an administrative position in the school system.
FIVE STARS RETURN
Sloan’s girls team returns five runners who competed last season in the state meet at Mississippi College’s Choctaw Trails in Clinton – Christina Daniels, Madison Nash, Sabrina Hudgins, Melia Milne and Callie Watson. Daniels, a freshman this season, finished second in the state to former THS teammate Katherine Steinman.
“We’re returning just about everybody,” Sloan said. “We’ve got a deep team. A lot of the girls are running strong. That’s not a bad problem to have.”
Faith Pannell, who was injured most of last season, returns, along with Lizzie Buford, Briana Weatherford, Anna Claire Lothorp, Larkin Robbins and Cassie Williams.
Daniels hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down since last season, Sloan noted.
“She’s stronger this year,” the coach said. “Nash and Hudgins are competitive. I think the intrasquad meet will give us a better idea of where we are.”
The intrasquad meet is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at Ballard Park.
WHITE LEADS BOYS
Andrew White finished fifth in the state last season as a freshman. Three other state meet runners return in Michael Robinson, Josh Lazore and Clayton Jarvis.
“Andrew’s a very natural runner,” Begnaud said. “He’s the sort of runner you can race and he gets better. His mechanics are very natural.
“He’s coming off a really good track season.”
Corey Batson, Eli Buford, Kelly Russell, Caleb Russell, Jack Nance and Tyler Nash are all in competition for race-day starts.
“We’re looking to have a really good season,” Begnaud said. “This group of guys is going to compete. Racing will decide who rises to the top.”
There’s also a matter of winning that 10th state title in 11 years.
“This team understands what they have to do to accomplish their goals,” Begnaud said. “Last year is still fresh in their memory.”