Natchez High School's Lonza Williams and Cathedral High School's Peyton Latham cross a bridge during the Cathedral High School Cross Country Invitational at Duncan Park Golf Course Thursday afternoon. (Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez High School's Lonza Williams and Cathedral High School's Peyton Latham cross a bridge during the Cathedral High School Cross Country Invitational at Duncan Park Golf Course Thursday afternoon. (Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat)

Davis, Pernell lead NHS in Invitational

Published 12:01am Friday, October 11, 2013

NATCHEZ — The terrain wasn’t what they were used to, but Kenya Davis and Shanika Pernell didn’t let it faze them.

The Natchez High School duo finished first and second, respectively, in the girls competition in the Cathedral High School Cross Country Invitational Thursday afternoon at Duncan Park.

With Pernell and Davis being used to practicing on the track at NHS and the Natchez Trace behind the school, Duncan Park offered plenty of twists and turns — literally.

“It was long and hard,” Pernell said. “It was a workout. Going up the steep hills and going down were different. A hard week of practice paid off.”

Davis placed first with a time of 18:40, while Pernell was just two seconds behjnd her at 18:42.

“It was long, tiring, confusing — all of the above,” Davis said of the course. “You had to do a lot of twisting and turning. It’s harder, because you don’t know where you’re going.”

But the two girls were able to keep pace with each other despite the challenges.

“It made it feel like the old days when we used to run together,” Davis explained.

Pernell also said she enjoyed running next to Davis as the two approached the finishing line.

“It’s been a long time since we ran beside each other,” Pernell said. “She boosts my speed and keeps pace (with me).”

Natchez High School's Kenya Davis got first place the girls' competition of the Cathedral High School Cross Country Invitational at Duncan Park Golf Course Thursday afternoon.  ( Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez High School’s Kenya Davis got first place the girls’ competition of the Cathedral High School Cross Country Invitational at Duncan Park Golf Course Thursday afternoon. ( Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat)

Cathedral won the team competition in the girls division with 35 points, followed by NHS with 37 points. Brookhaven High School came in third place with 84 points, and Jefferson County High School placed fourth with 105 points.

Cathedral’s Eden McMillin, who placed sixth with a time of 19:59, echoed Davis and Pernell’s thoughts on the course, saying the hills made things more difficult for the runners. But she credited head coach Tommy Smith for helping teach the girls how to fight through the terrain.

“Tommy always takes us to the track and makes us do pace intervals,” McMillin said. “They’re killer, but they pay off.”

In the boys competition, only one point separated NHS and Cathedral, with NHS coming in first with 42 points, followed by Cathedral with 43 points. Jefferson County was third with 74 points, and Brookhaven came in fourth with 87 points.

NHS’s Lonza Williams, who finished second in the boys competition at the 19:20 mark, said it was difficult to fight through a new course, but he kept himself motivated with his desire to be ahead of all the other runners.

“I just hate for someone to be in front of me when I run,” Williams said. “I always like to be in first — it serves as motivation.”

Smith said the invitational was originally supposed to be hosted at NHS, but he asked Mayor Butch Brown and Duncan Park Golf Course Superintendent Greg Brooking if they could use Duncan Park instead.

“They said as long as it didn’t interfere with golf revenues — if we could do it later in the day — we could do it,” Smith said. “It turned out to be great, and it gives them something different.”

Now that Duncan Park has hosted its first cross country meet, Smith said he would like to host more meets in the future.

“We hope so,” Smith said.

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