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Picayune cross country continues improvement with several PRs

The Picayune Cross Country team traveled to Magee, Miss., to take part in the Simpson Academy Invitational Monday evening and several athletes set new personal bests.

The runners who set new PRs were Ajay Kolaprath, Cade Deselle, Georgia Patton, Alexis Rutledge and Emma Diamond.

Head Coach Chris Wise has consistently been trying to give his athletes the opportunity to take part in as many meets as possible to give the runners more racing experience.

It seems those previous races are paying off with the athletes now able to cut time off their finish.

“We were able to pick that race up and go up there. It was our first time (on that course.) It was beneficial to us. We got some fast times, the kids were excited and I was excited for them. Things worked out well,” Wise said.

The top five fastest girls were junior Georgia Patton (12th place) with a time of 24:49, freshman Mary Thompson (18th place) with a time of 26:10, senior Alexis Rutledge (39th place) place with a time of 29:43, freshman Anna Comeaux (45th place) with a time of 30:28 and freshman Emma Diamond (48th place) with a time of 31:05.

The top five fastest boys were freshman Ajay Kolaprath (16th place) with a time of 20:53, sophomore Carter Edwards (19th place) with a time of 20:54, sophomore Cade Desselle (22nd place) with a time of 20:58, freshman JaQuann Swington (29th place) with a time of 21:34 and sophomore Raoul Ramos (30th place) with a time of 21:35.

Wise has harped on the importance of the runners pacing themselves throughout the race to ensure the best time possible, and it’s a message that seems to be finally hitting home for some of the athletes.

Given the youth of the runners it’s not hard to get caught up in the moment while at a meet, but with more experience comes a better understanding of how to properly run a race in order to set a new personal record.

“The adrenaline gets going at the start line, the gun goes off and they hurry out of there. It takes some races before they figure out ‘I should budget it a little better here.’” Wise said.

The build up of the cross country season means the athletes need to be near, or hitting their peak performances at this point.

There are only a few more races the Maroon Tide will take part in this season, so the opportunity to cut time and possibly qualify for state is dwindling.

“I look at it now like we’re dialing it up. October is what we’re concerned with. We’ve just been trying to get in good workouts and racing experience until then. We keep pushing harder, keep intensifying the practice to improve fitness and taper to that. Not dial it back,” Wise said.

Picayune will race Oct. 1 at the Admiral Sand Dash in Gulfport, then take part in a meet Oct. 10 at D’Iberville.

The races will serve as the final warm ups before the regional meet, but Wise said with the improvement he’s seen so far from his team he wouldn’t be surprised to have several athletes qualify for state.

“I’m proud of the kids and how far they’ve come. They’ve improved dramatically despite everything coming at them with injuries and COVID-19 stuff, but they keep coming back for more. They’re tough people,” Wise said.