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Poplarville cross country ready for first meet of the season

The Poplarville Hornets boys cross country team had a late start this year because of COVID-19, so the athletes had to work quickly in order to prepare for the first meet of the season.

Poplarville’s first meet will be at Petal City Park Oct. 8. Head Coach Luke Gipson said this year’s conditioning process hasn’t changed, even with the condensed timeline.

Athletes were timed for specific parts of each day’s run, then allowed to continue the rest of the run at their own pace.

The distance Gipson timed increased until the athletes were running a full 5k against the clock.

This process was beneficial for the runners because it allowed them to consistently build stamina, which was especially necessary as the athletes showed up out of shape due to the COVID-19 quarantine over the summer.

It also helps the athletes understand what pace they need to run at consistently to achieve their best time, which at the end of the day is the main goal.

“Starting off timing just the first mile (is helpful because) it doesn’t overwhelm them. They can give their best effort and figure out what they should run as far as pace.”

“Then we walk through the process and maybe decide to get the first mile to 7 minutes and just sustain that the entire run. It’s about finding that mark and what they can handle,” Gipson said.

Determining who travels to a meet is a simple process.

Gipson will send his athletes out on a 5k run, and the nine runners with the fastest times will travel to Petal on Thursday.

Originally there was concern the number of athletes allowed to go to the meet would be altered because of travel restrictions and other COVID-19 protocols, but that hasn’t been the case.

The team is returning several top runners from last year who have enough experience to approach a competitive meet the right way.

Veteran runners understand what their task is and Gipson said his team is using its history to create the right kind of mentality.

“Fortunately for us I think they know what to do and what to expect. They’ll just go out and perform. It’s awesome with senior leadership and experience is irreplaceable. With their confidence level I think they’re ready to go, which is very refreshing as a coach,” Gipson said.