Strolling to State: Cathedral alters training to win second straight cross country championship

Published 12:26 am Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Having won last year’s MAIS AAA State Championship in boys cross country, Cathedral High School wanted nothing less than to win it again.

Though the Green Wave did take home the trophy last Tuesday at Mississippi College, its top seven runners all said there was something a little different about this year’s training method.

“I will always remember the 10-mile runs we did on Wednesdays,” Hayes Daly — who finished third for the Green Wave — said. “When there’s nothing to talk about, it turns into some really good conversations.”

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At the beginning of the school year, Cathedral coach Tommy Smith implemented the long run format in an effort to improve his team’s overall endurance.

While Smith said he had faith in his approach athletically, he didn’t know exactly how much bonding the boys would do mentally and spiritually.

“Once I rolled up on them and they were talking about physics. Then one day they were talking about scientific theories and having religious debates,” Smith said. “It ranges from what they did on the weekend, to what kind of work school has thrown at them.”

No matter the topic matter, Ryan Skates — Cathedral’s second place runner — said it was never boring.

“I really don’t remember much of it now,” he said. “It’s really very random things. We are all really good friends, so it’s more about running together and getting to talk.”

Smith agreed the weekly trek — which typically took the Cathedral runners down Cemetery Road and back to the bluff — was definitely a change from last year.

“We did a few longer runs last year, but not as many,” he said. “It helps them communicate. It becomes rhythmic, and what they started to realize is their efficiency got to a point where it wasn’t a problem for them to run during a meet.”

And that’s exactly what happened last week during the championship run.

Though only its top seven count toward the point total, Cathedral had 11 runners place within the top 30 at the state meet — a 3-mile race.

The Green Wave was led by senior Jalen McCoy, finishing second individually with a time of 17:13.20.

“While a lot of teams were backing away their mileage, we kept increasing ours,” Smith said. “They figured out the long run helped lay the foundation for everything else.”

For McCoy, the state meet was about more than just his last run for the team.

“I was thinking about how it was my last race, but I always had help which really pushed us along,” he said.

After returning every member from last year’s team, Cade Miller — Cathedral’s fourth place runner — said he definitely thought Wednesday’s weekly run was a good way to freshen up the schedule.

“Since we didn’t lose anybody, there were implications that we would all improve,” he said. “It just shows how strong we are that we were able to do it again.”

Nevertheless, the top seven agreed they learned to not expect anything routine out of their bonding time.

“One time, we all just randomly started smelling Powerade,” Daly said. “We were in the middle of the woods. It was like a weird sense we all had.”

Finishing fifth for the Green Wave was Zhelin Cornette. Sixth place was Will Vaughan, and seventh place was Sam Mosby.