By Gene Phelps
CLINTON – Tupelo’s Darnell Collier celebrated his state championship Saturday with a front flip at the finish line.
“I told myself if I had a big enough lead I’d do it,” said the junior, who raced to his 5K victory in 16 minutes, 11 seconds. “I was excited.”
Collier’s victory highlighted a return to the winner’s circle for the Golden Wave and Lady Wave in the 2013 MHSAA Class 6A State Cross County Championships at Mississippi College’s Choctaw Trails.
Ocean Springs ended Tupelo’s dominance in the state meet with boys and girls wins in 2012. The Golden Wave has now won 11 of the last 13 state titles in 6A and 5A while the Lady Wave has captured 12 of the last 13.
Tupelo’s boys scored 43 points to outdistance second-place Ocean Springs at 60.
“At the beginning of the year we knew what we needed to do,” Golden Wave coach Jonathan Begnaud said. “Today was payday.”
Andrew White, a senior, finished second to Collier in 16:27 while Michael Robinson was seventh. The key for Tupelo was taking spots 16, 17 and 18 with Max Lawson, Mako Dijkwel and Logan Long.
The Lady Wave, which scored 42 points to defeat defending champion Ocean Springs, had five runners finish in the top 14 – Christina Daniels, Savannah Hudgins, Mika Takahashi, Sabrina Hudgins and Anna McCoy.
“We had something to prove,” Lady Wave coach Anna Sloan said. “Losing last year was not fun. We like being No. 1, not No. 2.”
Saltillo girls won their sixth consecutive state championship, scoring 40 points to edge Pearl (45) and Oxford (59).
Lexi Loden, Courtney Patton, Morgan Dennis, Leah Franks and Ashley Copeland all finished in the top 14 for the Lady Tigers.
“Lexi Loden, who finished second, and Courtney Patton, who finished fifth, really set the tone,” Saltillo coach Charles Covington said.
Oxford’s Swayze Elliott was the individual champ with her 15:45 clocking.
The Chargers edged Saltillo by three points – 43 to 46 – to win the boys’ title. Oxford’s Tristan Orman was the individual champ in 16:40.
Pontotoc, led by Chris Grisham, won the boys championship with 49 points. Grisham was the individual champion in 17:07.
Nathan Tidwell, Jacob Ferguson, Grayson Griffith had top 14 finishes for the Warriors, who have won four of the last five state titles.
Elizabeth Lunn and Locke Hester finished in the top 14 to lead Pontotoc’s girls to their fifth consecutive state title.
The wins were the 35th and 36th overall since 1978 for Pontotoc’s program and coach Mike Bain.
Eighth grader Madison Pharr and seventh grader Mikaelah Muse finished first and second to lead New Site to its second consecutive title
Pharr’s winning time was 16:57 in the 4K event. Muse finished in 16:58.
The Lady Royals scored 36 points to easily outdistance Madison St. Joseph (86).
East Union (49) and Potts Camp (61) finished second and third in the boys race behind champion J.Z. George (39).
Hickory Flat’s boys, behind five top 14 finishes by Luis Ojeda, Jarvis Harris, Datarius Tables, Russell Cross and Logan Nation, won the program’s first state championship with a tie-breaker win over Mound Bayou JFK.
Both teams scored 48 points, but the Rebels had six runners finish before JFK. The crucial sixth runner for Hickory Flat was freshman Jacob Gadd.
Myrtle’s Marquez Howell won the individual state title in 17:05.
Myrtle’s girls, behind a first-place finish from freshman Katana High – the defending champion – in 16:16, won with 28 points.
Kendra Sanders finished fourth overall to lead Mooreville’s girls to a third-place finish with 83 points.
In the boys’ race, Kossuth (56) was second and Alcorn Central third (97) behind St. Andrew’s.