By Gene Phelps
CLINTON – Six was the most-talked about number in Tupelo’s cross country camp this week – the boys and girls teams winning their sixth consecutive state championships.
The boys, however, had another number in mind - 15.
In cross country, a score of 15 means perfection, and the Golden Wave accomplished just that in winning Saturday’s MHSAA Class 5A state cross country meet at Mississippi College’s Choctaw Trails for the sixth straight season.
Tupelo captured the top five places with junior Rob Ellis leading the way with his winning time of 16 minutes, 05.07 seconds on the 5K course. Drew Kellum and Chase Elliott, both seniors, crossed in 16:19.99 and 16:32.39 while freshman Max Holman, in 16:35.36, and sophomore Gordon Lee, in 16:44.56, rounded out the fantastic finish.
“In 5A, to get the top five, you’ve done something,” Golden Wave assistant Scott Brown said. “They had this in the back of their minds. I knew they had it in them.”
Tupelo’s average time of 16:27 smashed the state record of 16:45 owned by 15-time state champion Pearl.
“Everybody ran a really good race,” Ellis said. “We had talked about it (scoring 15), but we knew there were a couple of other runners from other teams who could mess it up.”
Tupelo head coach Nathan Hall was all smiles postrace.
“It’s pretty awesome, any way you slice it,”he said. “We’ve got the best seniors, junior, sophomore and freshman runners in the state.”
Girls make Waves
Tupelo’s girls team won its sixth consecutive state title in a record average time of 15:20 – which topped the school’s previous 15:39 state record – and 21 points.
Katherine Steinman, an eighth grader, finished second overall and tops for Tupelo with her 4K clocking of 15:03.78.
“She’s full of heart and gives it everything she’s got,” Hall said of his young star. “She thrives on pressure. The bigger the race, the better.”
Steinman gave it her best shot against winner Sarah Hammes of Meridian, who crossed first in 14:53.19.
“I was trying to catch up,” Steinman said, then smiled. “I gained a little bit, then she broke away.”
Also for the Lady Wave, ranked No. 22 nationally and No. 2 in the South region by Nike, Maggie McFerrin, a sophomore, was third (15:09.44).
Two former state champions, seniors Emily Crow and Claire Corban, finished fourth and fifth in 15:18.16 and 15:22.17. Jana Mason, a senior, was seventh (15:49.17) while Catherine Holman, an eighth grader, was ninth (16:09.10).
Crow, who won individual titles in 2003 and 2004, said she thinks Steinman will only continue to get better.
“She’s got a great work ethic,” Crow said. “She’s a lot of fun. She never seems to get nervous.”