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New certified running courses in Picayune

A local coach saw the need for certified courses in this community and took it upon himself to make it happen.

Now, through his effort and the support of others, Picayune finally has two certified running courses the community can use.

John Stricker coaches the track and cross country teams at the Heritage Christian Academy in Picayune.

He’s been looking to set up certified courses for his athletes in Picayune to run on for an extended period of time and was finally able to accomplish that task.

Thanks to the help of a few organizations, and a course certifier from USA Track and Field Organization, Stricker was able to get two different courses certified in Picayune.

The first course is a one-mile course that centers around Crosby Commons, while the second course is an official 5k racing course that loops up to Twisted Oak Drive and also finishes at the Crosby Commons.

Stricker said choosing Crosby Commons as the central location for both races was purposeful.

Not only would the dynamics of the courses allow bystanders to view the majority of the race, but it would also allow a large number of sponsors and volunteers to convene in the center of the commons if a big race were to come to Picayune.

Picayune has a number of talented runners as evidenced by the recent success of Mason Watkins winning cross-country competitions on the national level for Picayune Memorial High School. To better grow the pool of talent, Stricker wanted to have a venue for the athletes to use in order to improve and grow the running community in Picayune.

Stricker said an additional benefit of having the certified courses is if a race were held in Picayune it would draw more people to the city to compete. While they are here, they’d spend their money in local business and help the local economy.

“I think it would bring people into the city. It just helps the community,” Stricker said.

Stricker said it doesn’t take much to set up a 5k race and because of the way the courses are set up anyone interested in hosting a race would need only five volunteers and the results of the race would be considered official.

Having the official courses will allow local athletes to compete, while also having the opportunity to break records.

With the new courses now being certified, Stricker said he expects local athletes to break records as the courses become more popular and more races are held. “I see talent in Picayune and some parents don’t want to drive to Hattiesburg or Jackson to see kids run, so they miss state records. I think Picayune would have more state record holders if they had a local course,” Stricker said.