Natchez speedsters set sights on state

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 25, 2001

&uot;Elite&uot; is a word not used lightly by Natchez High track coach Henry &uot;Doc&uot; Woods. But with a team like his, he uses it often.

The word first applies to Woods himself. Since he came to Natchez in 1965, he has not had a losing season. He is currently the winningest track coach in the state of Mississippi.

&uot;Elite&uot; certainly describes star runner Janice Davis, who broke three individual state records last week and is listed in several polls as the No. 1 prep sprinter in country.

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And after last Sunday’s Magnolia Indoor Track Classic – in which the Natchez girls defeated defending state champion Murrah for first place – &uot;elite&uot; pretty much describes the entire team.

&uot;I rate the girls as the top team to try to beat in Mississippi, and I think the boys will be very, very competitive,&uot; Woods said.

But being the best does not come easily.

&uot;We’re good because we work at being good,&uot; Woods said. &uot;We don’t go to a meet to participate, we go to excel. We don’t just plan on winning little district meets, we set out to win state.&uot;

&uot;Practice. That’s a big part of it,&uot; said sophomore Natalie Nobel of the team’s success. &uot;Plus we all stick together and hold each other up.&uot;

With this team’s schedule, runners could probably use a little help from their friends.

&uot;We have a year-round program,&uot; Woods said. Cross-country season lasts from August until November, but runners then must prepare for the indoor season, which lasts from December until April. The regular high school track season lasts through spring, and USA Track and Field sponsors a summer track program.

Running with the same group year-round builds relationships and a spirit of teamwork, Davis said.

&uot;We really work together to get points. We all put in hard work,&uot; she said. &uot;We predict how many points we’ll need in each event, and if it turns out we need more, we’ll work that much harder.&uot;

Natchez’ teamwork remains intact even with the relative stardom of Davis, Woods said.

&uot;We exercise unity,&uot; he said. &uot;Our leadership from our outstanding kids is such that it enhances our entire team.

But Natchez’s greatest strength is perhaps its most obvious.

&uot;We’re confident,&uot; said senior Jonda Ross. &uot;We all have confidence in our strength as a team.&uot;