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The Dart: ACCS Cross Country team not letting heat keep them down

NATCHEZ — Many people prefer to stay inside with a cold beverage on a hot day. For 10 runners on the Adams County Christian School’s Cross Country track team, however, sitting inside with a cold beverage has not been an option as the team members have braved the heat almost every week since July 1 to practice and get in shape.

When The Dart landed in the center of Duncan Park on Friday afternoon, the team was nearing the end of a 4-mile run while team members’ parents sat in the shade trying to keep cool in the 100-degree heat index weather.

“They’ve practiced across from Trinity Episcopal School, downtown, at First Baptist Church and Parkway Baptist Church,” said Sharree Griffin, who works at Merit Health Natchez and is the mother of Curtlien Griffin, a freshman runner at ACCS.

Coach Jheri Freeman said she gathers her team to run up to 5 miles, sometimes 6, at least four times a week.

“We have a good group,” Freeman said. “Parker Robinson (junior) is our loan varsity male runner. … We had 4 miles to run today. They’re all at different paces right now. … We started practicing the first of July … and this is the meat of the season. The state meet is the last week in October. … If they can get through that first run in the 100-degree heat index of July, then October should be easy.”

Freeman said the next meet is Sept. 24 at Choctaw Trails in Clinton.

The team consists of mostly junior varsity runners and two in varsity, Rebecca Ratcliff and Robinson, Freeman said. Ratcliff is the returning veteran of the team and placed top 10 in the 3A class.

“I mostly enjoy the feeling of crossing the finish line,” Ratcliff said between heavy breaths. “It makes me feel accomplished.”

The rest of this year’s ACCS team includes Lauren Merriett in seventh-grade, freshman Jacey Watson; Riley Watson in sixth-grade, Tyler Kiekel in eighth-grade, freshman Brooke Collier, freshman Tommy Vanwinkle, Michael Mascagni in eighth-grade and senior Braxton Robinson.

“The biggest challenge is getting kids at a young age to buy-in to running,” Freeman said. “The biggest reward is just watching them succeed. … Generally, you don’t start out blowing everyone away. … I enjoy watching them meet those personal goals.”

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