By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Christina Daniels and Andrew White are definitely a few steps ahead when it comes to cross country at Tupelo High School.
Daniels, a freshman, trains at times with the boys team while White, a sophomore, competes against assistant coach Bo Boatner, a seasoned distance runner.
“My girls team is running well, but I still have to run (Daniels) with the guys,” Lady Wave coach Anna Katherine Sloan said.
Golden Wave boys coach Jonathan Begnaud smiles when he talks about his young star’s training. “Andrew’s the only one who can keep up with coach Boatner,” he noted.
Daniels and White have won two of the three meets they’ve competed in this season. Both captured victories in the season-opening Pepsi Challenge in Moulton, Ala., then won last week’s Pontotoc Invitational.
In the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic, with a talented regional field, Daniels placed 13th and White crossed in sixth place.
Both runners will be favorites this Saturday when they compete in the Saltillo Invitational.
“Christina’s had a great season so far,” Sloan said. “She’s a ninth grader running a sub-16 4K.”
Daniels’ best effort was a 15:37 last season on the Mississippi State course. She won last week’s Pontotoc 4K race in 15:59. Last year, Daniels finished second to senior teammate and North Alabama signee Katherine Steinman at the state meet with a clocking is 15:39.
This season, Daniels’ goal is to return to Clinton’s Choctaw Trails and win the Class 6A state individual championship. She also wants to lead the Lady Wave to an 11th straight team state title.
“I want to win state and be a good leader for this team,” she said. “I’ve been working hard.”
There’s no doubt, Sloan says, that Daniels will contend for the state title in Clinton. “Christina’s quiet and soft spoken, but she’s very competitive,” she said.
White, who won Pontotoc in 16:46 for 5K, placed fifth overall last season at the state meet and was Tupelo’s top finisher.
“This year I’m hoping to break 16 minutes and win state,” he said prior to a training run. “I haven’t seen a lot of times posted from other runners in the state, but I know there are going to be a lot of runners close.”
White’s been pleased with his start this season.
“It’s going pretty well, but the ending is the goal,” he said. “I need to get my times down.”
Begnaud believes White has the talent to become one of school’s best distance runners.
“He’s stepped it up,” the coach said. “He’s had to run a few races by himself and he still pushed hard.”
Begnaud glanced at the THS cross country all-time state meet leaderboard at the football stadium and said, “There are some really good Tupelo runners up there (including Robert Scribner and Max Holman) and Andrew’s got his eye on knocking some of them off that board.
“I think his name will be up there at the end of the season.”