January 13, 2014 7:26:37 PM
STARKVILLE -- While Starkville High School freshman Kate Mattox is at the top of her sport, she finds that this is no time to rest.
"I love cross country because I just love the people I get to run with and against," Mattox said. "It's all about the people. I feel like I've been blessed with the talent and it's my obligation to do something with the talent.
"It's kind of my job to get better and better as long as I have the talent in this sport."
Mattox put her talent to good use this past fall as she was recently named Gatorade Cross Country Performer of the Year for the State of Mississippi. Mattox won the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A individual championship while helping lead the Jackets to a third-place finish as a team. She is now a three-time individual state champion in cross country.
For this achievement, Mattox is being recognized today as the Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week.
Also a member of the SHS soccer team and a state champion in track, Mattox has really blossomed in her three years of running cross country for coach Caroline Woomer.
"I love racing against quality competition because it pushes me to go harder," Mattox said. "In general, running has made me a more competitive person than I think that I would be in other things of my life. I definitely love running with people close to my times because I end up doing better."
Woomer has enjoyed watching the maturation of Mattox as a cross country star and feels like the best is yet to come.
"Kate is a real competitive person," Woomer said. "She is always pushing herself to do bigger and better. I think that is the mind-set that is going to carry her a long way in athletics."
For Mattox, she also feels like continual improvement in her game will be important, as other competitors also keep getting bigger, faster and stronger.
"I have a lot of quality competition in Mississippi so that never stops," Mattox said. "It'll still be a high competitive environment because the times of the top runners in that state and region are just so close together. I'll just keep training, competing hard and do my best. If I pray that I get better, God tends to let that happen more often than not.
"If everything goes as well as it is now, I'd definitely want to run in college and see how that goes for me."
For most athletes chosen the best in the state, college is right around the corner. For Mattox, the situation is different as her prep career will only be halfway over after this year's track campaign.
"I certainly like not being the youngest on my team and not being the baby of my squad that's for sure," Mattox said. "I loved being the baby before but now I get to see my younger sister Caroline join this team and hopefully I can be a good role model for all those younger runners here. I like the idea of being in the middle age wise because there's still upperclassmen I can go to but there's younger runners that look at me for how to do things."
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter