It was business as usual for the Presbyterian Christian girls last week in the MAIS Overall Cross Country State Meet, as the Lady Bobcats won their eighth consecutive Class AAA championship.
But it was a new day for Lamar Christian as the Lions won the Class A boys title, the first state championship in any sport for the school.
“It was surprising,” said Lamar Christian coach James Thompson, who is in his second season coaching the LC cross country program.
“We knew we had a chance, but also knew it would take max effort. Putting four runners in the Top 10, we did that.”
The Lions were led by Cade Lott and John Rousse, who were 1-2 in the Class A boys race. Lott covered the 5K boys course at Choctaw Trails on the Mississippi College campus in Clinton in 20 minutes, 12.35 seconds to easily win the individual title.
Rousse finished in 20:32.08. Tristan Buckhalter was sixth in 20:50.75 and Klayton Greer was eighth in 21:27.60, as the Lions finished with 36 points, well ahead of runner-up Trinity Episcopal.
PCS bettered that and then some in the Class AAA girls race, placing six runners in the Top 10 to win the team competition in a rout.
The Lady Bobcats totaled 28 points, with second-place Madison-Ridgeland well back with 89 points.
“I’m impressed with the way our kids keep performing year after year,” said PCS distance coach Wayne Williams.
“We seem to get more kids out every year. This year, we had 26 boys and 22 girls on our team. For a small school, that’s a phenomenal number.
“The more success our teams have, kids are more interested in cross country and wanting to be a part of it.”
If there was any disappointment, it was that senior Ramsey Stayer, the defending individual state champion, finished second behind Kennedy Galloway of Jackson Prep by less than six seconds.
Galloway covered the 2-mile girls course in 12:32.85, while Stayer finished in 12:38.47.
However, over the next minute, six PCS runners crossed the finish line. Margaret Campbell was third in 13:07.28, Jillian Rhian was sixth in 13:29.25, Katie Schilling was eighth in 13:39.46, Lilly Stayer was ninth in 13:42.51 and Grace Jennings was 10th in 13:46.35.
That kind of pack mentality is critical for team success in cross country, and it has been a hallmark for PCS.
“We talk about that group mentality,” Williams said. “You want as small a margin between your No. 1 runner and your No. 7 at any particular point in the race.”
That was also true of Lamar Christian.
“You want them to run as a pack,” said Thompson. “Of course, it has to be a fast pack. This year, we had four runners with the ability to do that. They all had very similar times, and our fifth boy knew what he needed to do and he did it.”
The PCS boys also had a good showing, as did the Columbia Academy boys. The Bobcats and Cougars finished tied with 59 points, and PCS took second on the tiebreaker, which is average time. PCS averaged 18:52.22, just .11 better than CA.
Matthew Futrell was the top runner for PCS, finishing fourth in 18:12.65, and John Michael Gory was eighth in 18:37.48.
For Columbia Academy, Joel Hitt was sixth in 18:26.84, Cody Nace was seventh in 18:30.85 and Kenny Price was ninth in 18:39.72.
Lamar Christian had two runners in the Top 10 in the Class A girls race. Laura Chatham was fifth in 14:20.55 and Rachel Engle was eighth in 14:34.83. The Lady Lions were third in the team standings with 63 points.