By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
The Tupelo Golden Wave cross country program was already highly respected in Mississippi before 2001. But that year is when Tupelo teams began a streak of winning 21 of 22 state championships.
That certainly means more than a few good runners have logged miles on the Natchez Trace or at Ballard Park.
Junior Andrew White and sophomore Christina Daniels are two of the latest leaders of the pack.
White was the top-ranked runner in the state a year ago, until a broken toe pushed him to a ninth-place finish in the Class 6A state meet. After struggling through spring track recovering, White is again ranked No.1 in the state, having clocked a personal record of 16 minutes, 4 seconds last month at the Saltillo Invitational over a 5K course.
“We knew coming into the season what he could do, but I still don’t think he’s run as good as he could, yet,” coach Jonathan Begnaud said. “Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we’ll see a performance that we want.”
Benefiting from Tupelo’s regional schedule, both White and Daniels compete against some of the best runners in the South, like today when the Tupelo teams run in Oakville, Ala., at the Jesse Owens Invitational.
“I’m hoping to get top 10 or 15,” White said. “I’m at least trying to run faster than I did last year.
“The individuals and teams at these meets are a lot better. It’s a lot better mental game.”
White, who ran a 16:12 at Jesse Owens a year ago, is hoping to break 16:00 for the first time Saturday.
Tupelo has already run regional meets in Memphis and Pensacola, and will be at the state meet course in Clinton Oct. 13. The state meet is Nov. 10.
Daniels still strong
Daniels finished the 2011 season with the third best time in the state, and currently boasts the sixth best time in the state in a 4K at 15:34.
Like White, Daniels has suffered a medical setback in the last 12 months, though more recently. Daniels missed three-plus weeks as school started with complications from the West Nile virus.
“Before that, she was running the best she’s ever run,” coach Anna Sloan said. “She’s crawling her way back, and she’s still run some of the best times in the state.”
At Jesse Owens, Daniels will run a 5K, but will be back at the 4K distance after that.
“I’m looking forward to running my best time of the season Saturday,” Daniels said. “I’ve had to readjust my goals for the season, and it’s been tough, but my family and team have been so supportive.”
Daniels best 5K of the season was a 19:49 in Pensacola, with her PR an 18:59.