By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
Admittedly, some of the cross country courses used by Mississippi high schools are not 100 percent off-road.
Not the case for Saturday’s Pontotoc Invitational.
“We have a course with very little flat,” veteran Pontotoc cross country coach Mike Bain said. “It’s a true cross country course.”
Bain is expecting at least 23 teams for his annual meet, held at Longbow Trails in Eastern Pontotoc County off Hwy 342.
On the whole, it’s great early-season preparation for the state meet in November.
“It’s a challenging course, with short, steep hills,” adds Saltillo head coach Charles Covington. “Times are not real fast, but it’s a beautiful place to have the meet.”
The meet begins with varsity girls races at 9 and 9:30 a.m. That will be followed by varsity boys races at 10 and 10:30, then junior high races at 11 and 11:30.
Varsity girls will run a 4K course, varsity boys a 5K layout, and junior high a two-mile circuit.
“We’re looking forward to pretty competitive races,” Bain said. “We have a lot of little hills.
“This is not a meet you run for time.”
Both the Pontotoc girls and boys teams are three-time defending state champions, with the girls one of the early favorites in Class 4A for 2012.
“Elizabeth Lunn started out the season running well,” said Bain, whose squad has only competed at the TCPS Invitational so far this season, and is coming off an open week. “But one of things that makes this team competitive is that we have four No. 1 runners.
“We’re able to run with teams like Tupelo and Madison Central, which is pretty good for a 4A school.
Also among Pontotoc’s top runners this season are Locke Hester, Katie Shumaker, Katy Mcauley, Emily Holcomb, Abby Tidwell, and Ashton Davis.
Bain calls the boys team “a work in progress” at this early point of the season.
Top boys include Brayden Timmons, Nathan Tidwell, Chris Grisham, Alex Berry, Marshall Peeples, and Grayson Grifith.