By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – Northeast Mississippi high school cross country teams turned out in droves Saturday as Pontotoc High School hosted its annual invitational at Longbow Trails.
This was the fifth season for Pontotoc to use this layout in the eastern portion of the county, with more than 20 schools sending runners to the early-season event.
“Cross country has always been strong in this part of Mississippi,” said Pontotoc coach Mike Bain, who has won 30 state championships between the boys and girls programs. “And it still seems to be getting stronger.”
The Class 4A/5A/6A girls event featured a nice duel between two of the stronger teams in the area – Pontotoc and Tupelo. Pontotoc has won back-to-back 4A state titles, while Tupelo has an impressive 10-year title streak going in 5A and 6A.
Though the event awarded team trophies based on class, with all three classes running together, Pontotoc did edge Tupelo 43-46.
“I had confidence in this team before today, but it’s picked up after today,” Bain said. “And I think we can run better.”
Tupelo freshman Christina Daniels did continue her early strong showing, running a 15 minutes, 59 seconds time over the 2.5-mile course for her second title in three events. Callie Mayo of Oxford was second in 16:28, and Alyssa Kelly of Saltillo third in 16:41.
“This was a good effort over a tough course,” said Tupelo coach Anna Katherine Sloan. “I was real pleased with Chirstina’s time.
“We were running without one of our top five today, but I was pleased with the effort.”
Tupelo and Pontotoc also dominated the 4A/5A/6A boys, with Tupelo totaling 31 points and Pontotoc next with 46.
Another early and strong individual performance was turned in by Tupelo sophomore Andrew White, who clocked a 16:46 over the 5K course, his second win of the season. Luke Hatcher of Pontotoc was second in 17:30, and Darnell Collier of Tupelo was third in 17:30.
In 1A/2A/3A boys, French Camp had the best team score with 53 points, while Kyle Suitor of Kossuth finished first with a 17:19. In girls, Ripley posted 43 points for the best score, with Page Rowland of Ripley taking the title with a 16:43.