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If Starkville Academy cross country coach Susan Willard wasn't already excited about the future of her program, Monday most likely changed her mind.
The Volunteers' junior high boys team placed second overall and several varsity runners set personal records at the Heritage Invitational at the Sherriff's Boys & Girls Ranch in Columbus.
Lake Spradling led the junior high Vols notching a third place finish with a time of 12:46. Layton Little and Pierce Fondren came in sixth and seventh respectively, recording times of 13:33 and 13:34.
Will Christiansen also put forth a solid showing for SA, ending in 11th place, and Jake Misna finished 28th for the junior high.
Only three varsity boys ran Monday, with Austin Miles notching a seventh place finish while setting a personal record time of 19:46.
Thomas McBroom also set a personal record with a time of 20:31, good for 12th place.
Matthew Christiansen rounded out the Vols' varsity boys team with a time of 22:58.
Christa Wilburn and Brooke Pogue represented the varsity Lady Vols, with Wilburn finishing seventh with her 14:41, and Pogue coming in 14th with a time of 16:44.
Willard, in her first year at the head of SA cross country, was pleased with Monday's showing, as well as the progress of her squad.
"Considering we only had two-thirds of a team (on Monday) due to illness and conflicting schedules, and eight of my 10 runners came in in the top 20 of their respective divisions and (set personal records), they are where they should be mid-way through the season," said Willard. "We have a really young team led by some great kids both on the cross country course and off. They pull together and support each other the way a team should and I applaud their hard work and effort."
Willard also says that the cooler fall temperatures and lower humidity will help her team as their workload increases in preparation for upcoming Regional and State competitions.
The SA cross country team will next head to Alabama on Saturday for the Jesse Owens Classic. Regionals and States will be held on October 18 and October 25 respectively in Clinton.
Once the high school season is over, two SA runners, Christa Wilburn and Pierce Fondren, will begin preparations for the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Regional Cross Country Championships in November.
To get ready, Wilburn and Fondren will join the Starkville Striders local running club coached by Joe MacGown.