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Picayune cross country qualifies for state meet

The Picayune Maroon Tide cross country team performed well enough at the regional meet Oct. 22 in George County to book a spot at the state meet Oct. 31 in Clinton, Miss.

Head Coach Chris Wise said his athletes have been preparing for the big stage all season and now will have a chance to compete against the best runners in the state.

“We made it and I’m excited about that. The kids are excited about it. They’ve worked hard for it. They’re psychologically prepared and now we’re going to physically prepare them,” Wise said.

Wise will be taking 13 runners in total to the state meet with the hopes that both the girls and boys teams finish inside the top 10.

The team will continue to train leading up to the race, but without the normal intensity of a workout that would take place earlier in the season.
“We’re continuing to work out this week, and then taper the workouts off a little bit as we get closer to the big day because you don’t want to be too wiped out. They’ve continued to work their tails off and get better, and that’s what it’s all about,” Wise said.

A big part of cross country is the runners learning how to pace themselves.

Experience helps, and as the athletes compete in more meets they understand how to approach a specific course.

“I think nothing replaces racing experience. They’ve continued to learn and the fitness level keeps stepping up. It’s all coming together for them. I’m pleased with where they’re at. That’s kind of what it’s all about is learning how to get the best out of yourself,” Wise said.

The majority of the team is made up of underclassmen, some of whom have never been to the state meet before.

Nerves could have an impact on such young runners, but Wise said he isn’t worried about the athletes’ mental state.

“I think they’re going to rise to the challenge. There’s a better family atmosphere this year than I’ve ever had. There’s a sense of camaraderie that I’m excited about,” Wise said.

The group has grown over the past couple of months and the relationships between the runners have continued to develop as the season has gone on.

Wise said if his athletes are an indication of anything, it’s that the future is in good hands.

“I can’t say that enough, how much fun we’ve had and the good stuff I see. I hear people complain about the youth and fret about the future, but they don’t see the good stuff we do. They’re tough kids and they’ll be able to handle whatever is thrown at them,” Wise said.