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Heritage Academy's Ledbetter earns All-State honor


Adam Minichino



A slow course wasn''t enough to prevent McGee Ledbetter from earning All-State honors. 


The Heritage Academy junior cross country runner finished fourth Monday with a time of 19 minutes, 3 seconds at the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA boys 5-Kilometer run at the Choctaw Trails course used by Mississippi College. 


Starkville Academy''s Joseph MacGown was second in the Class AAA meet with a time of 18:52. Jackson Prep''s Daniel Lang won the race in 18:29. 


The top 10 finishers earned All-State honors. 


"It was a pretty day, but the grass and the field we had to run on were real mushy. It felt like you were running on sand where you were," said Ledbetter, a transfer from Immanuel Christian in Steens. "It took a bunch of energy and took it all out of you when you tried to run. It really slowed you down." 


Ledbetter paced the Heritage Academy boys to a sixth-place finish in the Class AAA meet with 145 points. Matt Sykes (21st, 20:57), Forrest McCain (33rd, 22:08), Michael Ledbetter (38th, 22:29), Ethan Loreno (77th, 25:06), Lawson Peel (103rd, 32:53), and Jimbo Killebrew (104th, 33:14) also competed. 


McGee Ledbetter said he turned in much better times earlier this season. But he said Choctaw Trails was one of the toughest courses he has run this season. He said the hills and angles in the second part of the course proved to be a test. 


"The first part was pretty flat," Ledbetter said. "The second part I didn''t get to walk. It was really tough." 


Ledbetter tried to stay in the leading pack to start the race. He stayed with the front-runners and was in fifth or sixth at the midway point of the race, and remained consistent through the final part. 


Ledbetter credited the work he does outside of practice for helping to give him the training foundation he needed to earn All-State honors.  


"I always have that feeling that I don''t know if I am going to do good (in a race)," Ledbetter said. "My goal was to just run my race and to do the best I could do. It wasn''t about getting a certain position." 


Heritage Academy coach Tommy Gunn said Ledbetter had a very good season, despite being hard on himself. He said Ledbetter also plays basketball and soccer and competes in track and field in the spring. 


"He is a good young man, and he has a little brother who is going to be a good little runner," Gunn said. "His dad runs and his mom runs, so he comes from a family of runners. Most people who really get into running at that level have been brought up in it and it is ingrained in them." 


Gunn said Ledbetter has a good stride, a slim physique, and a good work ethic. He said all of those things make him a runner who has the potential to do even better next season. 


"We''re looking for big things from him next year," Gunn said.  


Gunn said the school''s cross country is only in its fourth year. He said there is a group of runners in the elementary school that also runs, so he hopes more student-athletes will get involved. 


The Volunteers finished fifth with 133 points thanks to the finishes of: David Batchelor (25th, 21:25), Jon Robinson (29th, 21:34), Thomas McBroom (40th, 22:29), Layton Little (52nd, 23:27), Ian Tharp (64th, 24:07), Austin Miles (71st, 24:42). 


Sallie Gardner paced the girls team with a 21st-place finish (14:34) in the two-mile race. 


The girls team took fifth with 159 points. 


Shiloh Ellis (26th, 14:55), Mary Claire Akins (29th, 15:04), Lindsey Killebrew (39th, 16:28), A.K. Weathers (44th, 16:46), Anna Lebrun (50th, 17:22), Charlotte Malone (56th, 19:00), and Emma Rose Davis (95th, 22:37) also competed. 


Abigail Arinder took 18th with a time of 14:25 to lead the Starkville Academy girls to a seventh-place finish (172 points). 


Christa Wilburn was 19th (14:27), Ciara Oakley was 53rd (16:41), Courtney Chesnut was 58th (17:02), Jordan Bowman was 59th (17:05), and Lauren Atwell was 64th (17:19). 


In the boys Class AA meet, Winston Academy''s Colton Horne was eighth with a time of 21:17.  



Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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