It may labeled a practice meet on the schedule, but the Starkville Yellowjackets are anxious to see how they measure up against some of the best track teams in the state on Saturday.
Starkville track coach Chris Barnett said some of the top track and field teams in Mississippi are taking part in the practice meet at Pearl High School.
The Jackets look forward to competing against schools like Madison Central, Northwest Rankin and host Pearl, which won the Class 5A State Championship last season.
"Moving to 5A gives our team some different competition than we've had the last couple of years, but not any less talent," Barnett said. "Many years track and field in 5A is stronger than 6A. This was shown last year with Pearl being so strong and not losing to anyone from A to 6A in the state of Mississippi."
Barnett sees SHS having the potential to have a good season with Gabe Myles, Kamau Bostic and Jalan Catledge qualifying for state on the boys side and Mary Elizabeth Stringer and Walker Mattox reaching state for the girls.
Also for the Lady Jackets, Kate Mattox will be running distance events. She was the Class 5A State Champion in cross country last fall.
Kate Mattox had the state's fastest time in the 4K and 5K during cross country of any girl in A-6A.
"The only reason why she didn't run last (spring) was she was in the 6th grade," Barnett said.
Barnett sees the youth on his squad, but was able to get some of them some valuable experience during the indoor season in Birmingham, Ala.
"We're going to be young in some fronts because we have a couple of 9th graders, but they look like they can help out on the varsity team," Barnett said. "For most of these kids, this is their second season of track this year because they participated in Birmingham for indoor track and will help a lot of our guys going into outdoor. They have a great deal of experience to bring to outdoor and they're more mature because of it."
Other potential prospects for the SHS boys are AJ Smith, Tyler Rogers, Tommie Stinson, Terrance McCarter, Grant Woomer, Damien Grady, Horatio Williams and Qu'Varius Robertson.
For the Lady Jackets, sprinter Janna Gandy has recovered from injury and is ready to compete. Senior Natalia Burns is also looking to contribute.
Emily Woomer, Taylor Rogers, Aleah Watt, Camika Clark, Sequoia Ellis, Verneisha Hemphill and Ralesheia Gee are also expected to help the girls.
SHS assistant track coach Caroline Woomer has been getting help with the girls from Jarwarski Beckum, Kevin Heard and Megan Holmes.
"Coach Jarwarski Beckum has been diligently training our sprinters, getting them physically, academically and mentally ready for competition," Woomer said. "Coach Kevin Heard is starting to work with our jumpers, and we have a new coach dedicated to our throwers, Dr. Megan Holmes. The Lady Jackets can't wait to see what the season holds."
Following the practice meet in Pearl, the Starkville teams travel to Hattiesburg the next week for the University of Southern Mississippi Invitational.