Picayune runner sets school record

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 18, 2019

So far this year the Maroon Tide cross country squad has only competed in four races, and yet new records are being set.

Over the weekend Picayune’s team competed in the Olan Welch Classic in Long Beach, Miss.

It was a hot and muggy day, but the runners pushed through the weather, and helped the team place in the top 10 of the meet.

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The leader of the group was Mason Watkins, who ran the 5-kilometer course for a new school record time of 16:20.

Head Coach Chris Wise said that he wasn’t expecting so many positive results this early in the season when endurance can still be a work in progress, but the athletes handled the pressure of the new course well.

“It was a good challenge for the kids,” Wise said.

“The elevation change was pretty dramatic, more so than the other courses.”

Wise said that Braxton Hatten and Carter Edwards were also standout performers, finishing 51st and 59th respectively.

There were 15 teams for a total of 139 runners at the meet.

Having such positive results in a big race gives Wise hope for the rest of the season.

“I think they did very well, and I was pleased they did well on that course,” Wise said.

“It was a challenging course, and so I was pleased how all the kids reacted to that.”

Now the team will head back to the drawing board, and start preparing for their next race at Ocean Springs on Sept. 21.

The athletes work out five days a week to improve their times and overall individual conditioning.

Wise wants his runners to get better, and the workouts are paying off with faster times.

“If you’re going to be good at anything you have to sacrifice,” Wise said.

“The goal is to improve 10 percent each week in everything they do, so when it comes to race day they’ll peak at the right time.”

The team isn’t quite halfway through the season, but the runners now have ample racing experience while also spending time with each other during the workouts.

Wise said the time the athletes have spent together has brought them closer and led to friendships off the track.

“They’re really enjoying each other’s company, and they are closer friends with a lot more respect for each other,” Wise said. “This sport does that, it’s not dog eat dog, competing in this sport at this level humbles anyone.”

The next race will include athletes from 6A schools, and Wise is interested to see how his runners stack up against the competition.

“They always have really strong teams, but I expect us to be in the top 10,” Wise said. “I do expect that we’ll continue to get stronger, and maybe even surprise ourselves.”