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Picayune cross-country competes in first meet of the year

Hundreds of runners from a variety of schools competed in the George County Trail Run, and Picayune Memorial High School’s cross-country athletes were among those runners. The start of the season is a test of the athletes’ endurance, and Head Coach Chris Wise said that his runners showed their potential during the race.

“I was pleased with the times at this point in the season,” Wise said. “There’s room for improvement, but it’s coming.”

Wise said that some of his athletes had a hard time dealing with the terrain, a couple even falling during the race. That impacted the times negatively, but Wise said there were still some bright spots in the event.

Georgia Patton was the highest placing female athlete finishing 25 out of 119 runners with a time of 27:20:73. Wise said that even with it being the first competitive race for some of his athletes, they still performed well.

Mason Watkins led the high school boys team by finishing 31 out of 184 runners with a time of 21:04:62.

Following Watkins was Carter Edwards who came in 84 and Braxton Hatten who came in 104 with times of 23:52:81 and 25:01:97 respectively.

High school students weren’t the only runners competing. Wise also had several middle school athletes take part in the race. Ajay Kolaprath led the middle school runners by coming 36 out of 142 runners with a time of 20:01:49. Ian Herring was close behind Kolaprath with a time of 20:34:62. The inexperienced nature of Wise’s runners meant that the first race was going to be more of a learning opportunity than anything else.

“A lot of the athletes need to get the miles under their legs,” Wise said. “They need to experience racing because nothing replicates that.”

Wise said that as the athletes get used to the racing environment the times would get better. With it being the first race of the season it was expected that the athletes’ fitness levels were going to need improving upon. However, Wise isn’t worried about getting results now, and is instead trusting the team will progress over time.

“It’s racing you’re going to get faster,” Wise said. “The endurance will come.”

The next race will be an interesting test for the athletes because it’ll be taking place in the sand when the runners compete in the Gulfport Beach Run. Set to take place September 5 Wise said it would serve as a new test for his runners.

“It’s going to be interesting to see where we are,” Wise said. “It’ll be a lot of fun, and I expect the next couple races they’re going to get better.” Wise wants his athletes to succeed each race, but he thinks that the character building off the course is what’s truly important.

“They are just phenomenal people,” Wise said. “They’re running their hearts out and that’s all you can ask. It’s not about the win it’s about where the kid is at in life.”