By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
TUPELO – The Tupelo Golden Wave cross country team is working around the needs of the many, and of the few.
With the state championship meet just around the corner on Nov. 9, the Golden Wave and Lady Wave will host the annual Tupelo Invitational on Saturday at Ballard Park.
It is one of the last opportunities to race live competition prior to the state meet.
Starting times for various races have been adjusted to accommodate the many potential runners who could be taking the ACT exam at nearby Tupelo High School that morning.
The junior high events begin at 10:30 a.m.
The 1A-3A varsity events begin at 11:30 a.m. and 12:10 p.m., and the 4A-6A races will begin at 12:50 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.
“The course at Ballard is a pretty fast course,” Wave head coach Jonathan Begnaud said.
Begnaud is expecting 21 teams and around 600 runners.
While the Tupelo Invitational is working around academics, the 2013 season has seen Begnaud working toward having senior runner Andrew White as healthy as possible for the state meet.
That has meant holding back White in selected races this season. In the previous two state meets, White was the top-ranked runner in any classification prior to race, but injuries kept the senior from performing up to his potential.
“He’s been doing the job we need him to do this season,” Begnaud said. “But most important, he’s staying healthy.
“There have been races we’ve allowed him to go full throttle and see what’s in the tank.”
White recorded a time of 16 minutes, 17 seconds in the 5K at the Sept. 14 Pontotoc Invitational.
“A lot of guys on the team have stepped up this season for us,” White said. “It’s been a different kind of feeling during races for me.
“Obviously, I want the team to win state.”
Tupelo, which has won 10 of the last 12 titles in its class, lost the 6A team event last year to Ocean Springs by one point.