By Gene Phelps
CLINTON – New Site’s state championship-winning lineup for Saturday’s MHSAA Class 2A Cross Country Championships featured four seventh graders, two eighth graders and one junior.
“We’ve got ’em all back,” said New Site coach Byron Sparks, whose team competed without its No. 1 and No. 4 runners. “If we can get those two (Sydney Presley and Amber Nichols) healthy, we’ll be in good shape.
“We were lucky that we had enough depth to continue without them.”
Madison Pharr, an eighth grader, edged her seventh grade teammate, Mikaelah Muse, to win the individual state title in 16 minutes, 57 seconds on the 4K Mississippi College course.
“I finished second last year and it hurt really bad,” Pharr said. “That motivated me today.”
Sixth man matters
Hickory Flat freshman Jacob Gadd heard his coach, Michael Seger, emphasize all season the importance of the sixth and seventh man in cross country.
Gadd was the sixth runner to cross the 1A finish line in the state meet for the Rebels. His placing helped his team win a tie-breaker against Mound Bayou JFK and the program’s first state championship in cross country.
“It feels amazing,” Gadd said. “I was just trying to help my team.”
Seger, who thought his team had a good shot to place five runners in the top 14, said: “I thought our sixth guy could be the difference.”
Happy, not sad
Pontotoc’s Chris Grisham knew how bad he felt last year when he heard St. Stanislaus had won the 4A state title.
“One of their guys said, ‘Dude, we won,’” Grisham recalled. “I was sad.”
Grisham did his part Saturday to ensure he was glad this time around. The junior covered the 5K course in a winning time of 17:07 to lead the Warriors to a state team championship.
“I’m excited,” he said. “This was my first state championship to win as an individual and with my team. I felt coming in we’d pull together and win.”