March 25, 2014 11:00:35 AM
STARKVILLE -- When Starkville High School cross country and track and field performer Walker Mattox needs extra motivation, she doesn't have to call or text a teammate.
Instead, she calls throughout the house for her sister, Kate, who has emerged as one of the Yellow Jackets' top performers in each of the past three seasons.
"I feel like the Lord has blessed us in a very unique way with the sister dynamic," said Walker, a junior. "I would not be here without Kate. It was very hard at first. I was the first one to do cross country and track. Then my sister (Kate) started doing it and she started beating me right away. It took a while for it sink in. Instead of getting down, I decided to use her to push me to do better. I love seeing her succeed. It is wonderful. Everywhere I go I talk about my sister because I am proud of her."
The Mattox sisters had a lot of success Friday at the Ole Miss High School Invite. In the 1,600 meters, Kate, a freshman, placed first with a time of 5 minutes, 19.21 seconds, while Walker was third (5:33.52). In the 3,200, Kate placed first (11:22.31) and Walker was third (personal-best time of 11:45.35).
"I was very happy with my times because it was my first two-mile race of the year," Kate said. "I just really like running at Ole Miss. It is extra cool because it is like an official meet and way better than running at a high school. I think I want to run in college, so it is great getting to have experiences like this. It is the type of place I will be going and the type of track I will be running on, so it is a lot of fun."
Walker had Friday's race date circled for some time. Her goal was to finish the 3,200 in less than 12 minutes. If she accomplished that goal, she planned to pursue an invitation to the Mobile Meet of Champions.
"That was my main motivation," Walker said. "I wasn't going to even ask to go to Mobile if I didn't come in under 12 minutes, so to be able to do that and set a personal record on top of that was very satisfying. There was some good competition in the meet. We had a lot of personal records set, so it was an exciting day for the team."
While Kate was chosen Cross Country Performer of the Year for the state in 2013, she emphasizes the importance of track and field also being a team sport.
"Our team is strong and our coaches are very good," Kate said. "They remind us to be there for one another. We know they always be there for us and we will always be there for them. We get along really well. We want the best for one another. It is more fun when you have a fun team. They can make you laugh when you need to laugh and they calm you down when you are nervous."
Starkville girls track and field coach Caroline Woomer likes the family dynamics of the three Mattox sisters, including seventh-grader Caroline, who is also on the cross country and track teams, as well as the togetherness of the entire team.
"This team has progressed really well," Woomer said. "We have two meets before the region meet and we have several state hopefuls."
Sophomore Ralesheia Gee placed third in the long jump (16 feet, 4 inches) at Ole Miss. Two weeks earlier, at a meet in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Gee recorded jump of 17-7 1/2, which made her national elite. Emily Woomer was fourth in the 400 at Ole Miss with a personal-best time of 58.88 seconds.
"We have been at this since freezing temperatures before the start of the year," Woomer said. "It is quite pleasing to see the progress."
The good news is there is a fourth Mattox on the way. Youngest sister Libby, a fourth-grader, has taken to the track, too.
"The best thing about us as sisters is we know each other feels," Kate Mattox said. "We know what it is like to get nervous. We know what it is like when one of us needs the other. Our main purpose is to use our track skills to glorify God. We run a lot of weekends together. We run a lot of practices together. I am just excited when one of them does well, as I am when I do well."
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter