By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Move over for the new kids on the block in high school cross country: Tupelo Christian Prep and New Site.
The girls teams from both schools, in their fourth seasons competing in the MHSAA sport, recently won state championships at Mississippi College’s Choctaw Trails in Clinton.
TCPS coach Lynn Holland thought surely his Lady Eagles would earn a top three finish in the 1A meet. He was floored when they won and defeated two Northeast Mississippi powers – West Union and Myrtle.
The team’s 55 points scored and average time of 18 minutes, 4 seconds are program bests.
“This is an awesome group,” Holland said. “It’s a big deal for TCPS. It lets us know we can compete.”
And look for TCPS to compete in the upcoming seasons. Four of the team’s top five runners were seventh and eighth graders – Rebecca Talton, Abby Hanby, Madison Laney and Emma Woolhouse.
The lone senior was former Tupelo High all-state runner Haley Page, who overcame two years of injuries and a one-year layoff to finish third overall in 17:08 on the 4K course.
“Her presence this season at TCPS was a gift to the younger girls … and the younger girls gave Haley a gift as well with their performances at the state meet,” Holland said. “It was an amazing day.”
New Site won its first cross country state championship with one of its top runners – defending individual 2A state champ Sydney Presley – competing with an injury.
Presley, who was slowed by painful shin splints, finished sixth on team and 23rd overall in 18:48.
“I blocked it out; I had to do it for my team,” the eighth grader said. She also noted that winning a team championship “feels better” than winning an individual honor.
Presley was one of four seventh and eighth graders running for New Site. The others were Madison Pharr, a seventh grader, and eighth graders Amber Nichols and Madison Hutchens. The team’s two seniors are Rachel Holley and Christy Clark.
Pharr missed he individual state title by five tenths of a second to Hickory Flat’s Gracie Pipkin.