TUPELO – Max Holman recently ran a personal best time in the 5,000 meters with a little help from his friend.
The Tupelo High School senior, a two-time state champion, covered the Golden Wave’s Ballard Park cross country course in 15 minutes, 19 seconds, smashing his previous best clocking of 15:43.
Holman drew his inspiration from John Paul Frerer, a friend and fellow triathlon teammate who died Aug. 13 in an auto/bicycle accident near Pontotoc. Holman ran the Aug. 15 THS intrasquad race wearing a navy blue Team America headband to honor Frerer.
“What helped me today was that the entire race I was thinking about John Paul and his work ethic,” Holman said moments after crossing the finish line.
Holman, Frerer and swimmer Hannah Wilson, competing as Team America, won the relay division at the Aug. 8 King of the Hill Triathlon at Tombigbee State Park in Plantersville.
Wearing the headband “was probably a one-time deal,” Holman said. “I know Hannah and I plan to do a full triathlon in John Paul’s memory next year.”
Holman leads Tupelo’s charge as it begins a quest for a ninth consecutive state championship in boys cross country. The girls’ program is also going for a ninth straight state title.
“Our boys team has a chance to be very good,” coach Nathan Hall said. “The key is depth. That and the fact that Max is running very, very, very well.”
Junior runners Stephen Dudas, Harrison Campeau, Nolan Palladino, Jeff Wilson and eighth grader Andrew White have the best early-season times.
On the girls’ side, 2007 state champion Katherine Steinman, a junior, won the team’s intrasquad run with a 15:04 clocking on the 4K course.
Ninth graders Haley Page and Abby Phillips finished second and fourth while junior Kacie Harris placed third.
Hall said Harris was an “average runner” last season, but has worked her way into the competition lineup.
“I was average, I guess you could say,” Harris said. “Katherine Steinman’s one of my best friends and I’ve been training with her. It’s a challenge to stay with her. Every day’s a workout when you race with her.”
Hall believes the reason Tupelo has been so successful over the years is the work ethic of its runners.
“Our kids run 12 months,” he said. “You got a guy like Max who takes maybe three to four weeks off.”
Tupelo opens its regular season Saturday in the Brooks Invitational in Florence, Ala.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal