Columbus Christian Academy senior Chris Webber signed a National Letter of Intent on Tuesday to run cross country at Mississippi College in Clinton. Webber’s mother, Leslie, and CCA cross country coach Billy Thomas are seated with him. Photo by: Adam Minichino/Dispatch Staff
April 17, 2018 11:44:04 PM
STEENS -- Billy Thomas knows how driven Chris Webber is to realize his goals.
Nearly three years ago, Webber stopped Thomas in the drive-thru at McAllister's and asked him when Columbus Christian Academy was going to start a boys cross country/track and field team.
Webber's prompting the summer prior to the 2015-16 school year ultimately led to the CCA boys winning the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AA title for the school's first championship in MAIS competition.
Since then, Webber has matured as a leader, an organizer, and as an athlete. Two more MAIS cross country team titles have followed as well as a MAIS Class AA State boys track and field championship in 2016 and a second-place finish at the Class AA State track and field meet in 2017.
Through it all, Webber has led the pack in training and in competition. On Tuesday, his efforts paid off when he signed a National Letter of Intent to compete in cross country at Mississippi College in Clinton.
"I am very proud of him," Thomas said. "He has worked hard. He has done everything. He has been a great leader and a coach for us, working with the young guys. There is so much excitement in the school about the sport."
Thomas said Webber has realized all of his goals even though he admits he didn't coach him as hard as he needed to. He said Webber refused to let that hold him back because he worked on his own to get better. Thomas said that drive is what makes Webber one of the most accomplished student-athletes in the history of the school.
"I was talking to Chris' dad (Doug on Monday) and I told him I don't know if Chris understands the impact athletically he has had on the school," Thomas said. "We won our first state championship with Chris. I think because of that our (boys) basketball team really stepped up and wanted to win it that year so bad because our cross country team had.
"We have won it two more years in a row, and we have a chance to win it two or three more years."
As a sophomore, Webber won the 5-Kilometer race at the Class AA State meet with a time of 19 minutes, 27.86 seconds. As a junior, Webber won in a time of 19:00.41. He closed his cross country last October by winning the Class A meet in a time of 18:29.87 to lead a sweep of the top four spots.
Webber, who also is a member of the school's boys soccer team, has had plenty of success in the Class AA State track meet, too. Last season, Webber won the 1,600 (4:58.19) and the 3,200 (11:26.46). In 2016, Webber was second in the 1,600 (5:08.56) and first in the 3,200 (11:28.62).
"Chris is a leader at this school, but he pushes himself no matter where he is," Thomas said. "He wanted to step up and speak at all of the pep rallies for the football team, and he took it on his own to make sure the pep rallies were as good as they can be for his classmates and the football team, and he did a really good job.
"You don't find many people like Chris who are going to push themselves beyond."
Webber said he has thought about the origins of his drive to succeed, but he isn't sure how he stays so motivated. He recalls not doing well at the state meet as an eighth-grader and wanting to improve for his freshman season. Webber said he enjoyed pushing himself against the clock and seeing the results.
"I like the fact that you can control your own results," Webber said. "As long as you put in the work, you're going to see the results. I liked being the guy who worked the hardest. I love being at the starting line knowing no one has worked as hard as I have."
Webber said he is looking forward to the challenge of running and training with teammates who share his passion for cross country in college. He acknowledges the transition from a small school will be challenging, but he said he will be prepared because he still wants to achieve more.
"The bigger the goal, the happier it is," Webber said. "I just have to make sure I don't feel like I'm done. I want to keep setting goals. Maybe next year I can be as big a part of the team as possible, so I just have to keep setting goals and reaching them."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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