November 9, 2010 8:03:00 AM
CALEDONIA -- The temptation is always there for Jessica Comer.
Like all elite cross country runners, she can hear footsteps.
But she resists the urge.
And like many runners who sprint to big leads early in races, Comer has a natural curiosity to gauge the size of her advantage.
But as much as Comer would like to turn her head to look, she knows it can throw off her pace and give her too much to think about in the course of a race.
That battle was the biggest one Comer had to face Saturday as she sprinted to an early lead and then held on to win the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A state title at Choctaw Trails in Clinton.
Comer''s time of 15 minutes, 55 seconds helped her win her first cross country title, and second state title in her high school career.
For her accomplishments, Comer is The Dispatch''s Prep Player of the Week.
"I didn''t want anyone to pass me and it was my last time to run in my senior year, so I really wanted it," Comer said. "Last year, there were three seniors ahead of me, and I thought, ''Next year there is no reason why I can''t win.'' "
Comer, a senior, broke off the starting gun with a purpose. She sprinted to an early lead and realized she needed to ease up so she would have enough to cover the four-kilometer course.
Comer almost let up too much. She said teammates and friends along the side of the race course shouted to her that others were gaining on her. A late sprint uphill to the tape allowed Comer to beat Pass Christian seventh-grader Regen McGee by seven seconds.
"I thought I would be OK because when (she looked back at the two-mile mark) I saw the other girls 30 yards behind me," Comer said. "I had to sprint a lot faster than I thought I could have sprinted because I thought she was right behind me. It is a scary thought because you can''t turn around and look."
The winning time was slower than Comer''s time of 15:33 that earned her fourth at the 2008 Class 4A state meet.
Last year, Comer took fourth again with a time of 16:39.
This year, though, Comer has plenty of work left to do. The defending Class 4A champion in the 800 meters (2:21.75). Comer''s goal in the outdoor track and field season is to win state titles in the 800, 1,600, and 3,200. A year ago, she finished third in the 1,600 (5:28.77) and 3,200 (12:17.47).
The memory of a third-place finish in the 800 in 2008 will provide plenty of motivation for Comer. In the lead just before the finish line, Comer said she let up and was passed by Oxford''s Virginia Mikell (2:28.33) and St. Martin''s Jazmin Scott (2:28.63) and settled for third (2:28.7).
That finish adds to the curiosity every time Comer is in the lead.
On Saturday, Comer ran more with a purpose than out of fear, although she admitted being nervous.
"At the beginning of the race, I was really, really focused and scared, kind of, I guess, of getting beaten, so I was kind of tense and kept pulling on my track shorts," Comer said. "In the middle of the race I told myself, ''I have got to stop.'' That is when I realized I had to slow down because I was almost sprinting to get away from everybody. After that, I just shook my hands out and kept running. I calmed down after that and just relaxed."
The competitors had to overcome windy conditions. Comer said she didn''t speed up to compensate for the conditions, but she focused on breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth and reaching the finish line before anyone.
Comer won the title despite not logging a heavy mileage load each week of the regular season. She said the team had a three-week layoff before the district meet. She said she could have trained harder during the season, which would have led to faster times, but she said she will increase the number of miles she runs to help her reach her goal in the outdoor track and field season.
"I am part of my way into my goal and I will be happy with myself for the accomplishments I made, but I don''t think I will be fully satisfied until I get my goal to get five state championships," Comer said. "The word is not slacking, but I can''t let up anymore. I have to push, push, push until track season is over. I have got to train harder, run more, bump my mileage up and work a lot harder than I did in cross country."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
coachkcs71 commented at 11/10/2010 8:54:00 PM:
A well deserving honor for a terrific student athlete and person. Along with her older sister and younger brothers the family has and continues to represent Caledonia in the most positive way. Best of luck on getting to '5'!