Former SHS athlete Mattox enjoys good first year at Southern Miss

Kate Mattox, left
Staff Writer

Kate Mattox made quite a first impression at the University of Southern Mississippi.

The former Starkville High School runner kept up a fast pace in her first season of running cross country and distance track events with the Golden Eagles and was voted the school’s Female Athlete of the Year.

“I’m very honored and happy about it,” Mattox said about being considered the top female athlete at USM. “I would say indoor track and cross country was about what I expected. Outdoor exceeded my expectations, so overall it was a great year. I’m happy with the progress made.”

During the cross country season with the Golden Eagles, Mattox finished as the top runner for the team. She helped USM to a 12th place overall finish at the NCAA South Region championships.

Mattox was the top Golden Eagle finisher in that event with a time of 21:16.4 in the 6K for 49th place overall.

“We knew Kate was going to be pretty good, but we just tried to keep it simple and let her get a transition to college life on her own,” USM cross country coach Aaron Kindt said. “She had a great fall and was our No. 1 runner. She helped us to a second place finish (during the cross country season), my first ever podium finish in school history and that was special. She kind of kept that role going into the track season.”

Mattox emerged as one of the top distance runners for the Golden Eagles in the spring and made a push to reaching the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon. She ended up 42nd in the 1500-meter run at the NCAA East Prelims in Tampa, Florida.

“It was after her indoor championship that she really realized what she could do and running outside, she really took off at the beginning of April and into May,” Kindt said. “That was something I thought she could do at some point of her career and maybe next year would be the year, but she kind of exploded toward the end there. That was a lot of fun.”

Mattox was a four-year letterwinner in a state championship career in both cross country and track for the Yellowjackets in high school.

Her fastest times at SHS were 17:59 in 5K, 4:55 in the 1600-meter run, 10:59 in the 2-mile and 2:18 in the 800-meter run.

Mattox is already back in Starkville preparing for next season at Southern Miss.

That doesn’t surprise Kindt because he has witnessed Mattox’s desire to be a better runner real close already in Hattiesburg.

“One thing about Kate is she is as tough of a competitor as you’ll ever come across,” Kindt said. “We just let Kate’s natural competitiveness take over.”