By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
What passes for a regular season is winding down for Mississippi high school cross country teams.
The Nov. 10 state meet is fast approaching.
Tupelo’s teams will be looking for an edge on Saturday when they host the Tupelo Invitational at Ballard Park.
“In late-season races, like this one, many teams usually have a couple of spots still up for grabs,” Tupelo boys coach Jonathan Begnaud said. “Other guys are starting to define their strategy for the state meet.”
Begnaud said approximately 22 schools will be here on Saturday, with the first event, the Class 1A-3A girls race, at 9:40 a.m. The 1A-3A boys will follow, then the 4A-6A girls, boys, and junior high races.
Tupelo’s boys are pretty fair at state meet strategy, having won 10 state titles in the past 11 years.
Tupelo slogged its way through a muddy Alabama race a couple of weeks ago, and is fresh off a first place at the Choctaw Open in Clinton on the state course last Saturday.
“All of our top guys have had good performances, just not at the same time,” Begnaud said. “We’re getting close to where we want to be.”
Begnaud points to senior Eli Buford as one of the more consistent varsity runners. And after the Choctaw race, junior Jordan McKay’s effort will keep Begnaud plugging in times to see who rounds out his state meet roster.
The Tupelo girls also have a successful time reading the road map this time of year – having won 11 straight state titles.
“We’re not where we want to be, but we’re getting there,” Tupelo girls coach Anna Sloan said. “For whatever reason, our 5K times are better than our 4K times this year.”
The Lady Wave has been running 5K in out-of-state meets, but Saturday will be their second 4K in a row, the girls distance at the MHSAAstate meet.
Sloan said she likes the current consistency of seniors Madison Nash and Callie Watson, and junior Sabrina Hudgins.
“My top five are pretty set right now, but there’s always room for improvement,” Sloan said. “We have two weeks ahead of us to get ready.”