October 24, 2010 12:57:00 AM
David Miller -
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School''s first-ever cross country meet was a flawless performance Saturday.
The Jackets had three runners place in the top 20 for a third-place finish, and the meet itself was on schedule and free from problems that normally plague first-time competitions.
Three months of planning and help from numerous sponsors, parents and boosters helped the Mississippi State-hosted competition become a success.
Starkville''s home meet comes a week before the Mississippi High School Activities Association state meet at Choctaw Trails, and runners couldn''t have been happier with the tuneup.
"It has a big hill and Choctaw Trails does too," said Lady Jackets runner Abigail Arinder, who finished 26th. "It''s a pretty tough course. It''s kind of unique course. This is definitely a good run to have before the state meet."
Starkville''s boys enjoyed a stellar day as three runners finished in the top 20. Junior Kamau Bostic took fourth with a time of 17 minutes, 25 seconds -- nearly 35 seconds off Pearl''s Andrew Harrell''s race-winning time of 16:54.67.
Freshman Joseph MacGown, who has gone back and forth with Bostic over the last three weeks, took sixth at 17:32.36.
Bostic was confident he could have challenged for a higher spot.
"I didn''t want to tire myself out too much," Bostic said. "I wanted to get ready for state. I guess I could have gotten second if I wanted to. I really wanted to sit back and relax this race."
MacGown''s approach was to finish higher, but the freshman admits he wasn''t at top form for the penultimate meet of the season.
"I didn''t get the time I was hoping for and I didn''t get the place I want," MacGown said. "I just wasn''t happy with my performance. I guess I wasn''t feeling today, but I still tried hard and we did well as a team."
The Jackets took third place with 82 points and a team average of 18:20.97. Tupelo won the meet with 36 points and seven runners in the top 20. Pearl took second place.
Starkville enjoyed a pleasant surprise from Jonnel Ward, who clinched his career-best time and finish with an 18:32.73 for 19th.
His colorful Asics shoes drew laughs from other runners, which helped fuel his performance.
"There were a couple of guys who talked about me because of the shoes I was wearing," Ward said, "They called me ''rainbow shoes.'' And I said the ones who talked about me I was gonna beat."
Running against two of the top cross country programs in the state, the head coach Caroline Woomer was pleased to have a stellar performance ahead of the state meet.
"We love to compete against Tupelo and Pearl because it makes our boys work harder," Woomer said. "You can tell when they''re running against someone who isn''t going to challenge them because they aren''t pushing as hard. But they really push themselves and go the extra mile and give what they have to give to gain more."
Ethan Musser took 31st (19:03.96), Grant Woomer was 42nd (19:42.80), Nathan Gaudin was 46th (19:59.45), Jack Bryan was 48th (20:00.12) and Jalan Catledge was 49th (20:04.40) to round out the top scores for Starkville.
Mississippi School for Math and Science''s Morgan Weems finished 77th (22:07.78) and Kyle Jasko was 79th (22:25.74).
West Lowndes runner Deandra Lewis was 98th (23:17.36).
Arinder goes to top
Abigail Arinder has run two varsity meets in her career as a Lady Jacket, and Saturday she made a statement as the team''s No. 1 runner.
Arinder finished 26th with a time of 17:57.09, helping the team to a seventh-place finish.
Tupelo won the meet and Pearl took second.
Arinder, an eighth-grader, was followed by fellow underclassmen Anna Jackson, who clocked in at 18:18.56 for 31st.
"Abigail has come back from having problems with her hip, and this is her first full year of varsity," coach Caroline Woomer said. "We told them to just go out and have a good time. They wanted to represent well because this was our first meet."
Arinder said she didn''t have a specific time set to reach Saturday, but she hoped to be the have the highest finish for the Lady Jackets.
"I just wanted to be extremely tired at the end, and I was," Arinder said. "I feel good and feel like I can keep pushing myself to go farther."
Avery Cohen, who took 48th with a time of 19:31.06, was Starkville''s third runner to finish in the top 50.
MSMS'' Laurel Marsh was 24th (17:49/74)