Kate Mattox runs for Starkville High School in a meet last season. (Submitted photo)
Starkville's Kate Mattox has always found ways to be motivated in an athletic competition.
When she was 10-years-old, Mattox was seeded eighth in the breast stroke for the state swimming championships and was supposed to finish last.
There's one twist to the story.
The meet was being held in Oxford, the home of the University of Mississippi.
While spending the previous night in an Oxford hotel, Mattox knew she was going to have a good meet.
"Did you see the name over that pool?" Mattox said, referring to Ole Miss. "I'm going to get out of there as fast as I can."
Mattox ended up winning the state championship in the breast stroke.
The first love for Mattox was soccer and felt at one time that she could play collegiate soccer. Her focus has since shifted from soccer and swimming to cross country.
Mattox won her second consecutive individual cross country state championship on Nov. 10 and leaves Thursday for the Foot Locker South Regional in Charlotte, North Carolina. The race is Saturday.
"It's very exciting and I love it," Mattox said of cross country competition. "It's fun hanging out with my friends at cross country. I really think God is getting me through this. He has been with me the whole time and is going to continue to be with me, so I want to give glory to God. I love it and hope to continue to love it like I do now."
Mattox is being taught to live in the moment, trust God and follow His will in her life.
Faith is very important to Mattox and the support group around her. Prior to leaving for Charlotte, one of the events Mattox participated in was a birthday party for friend and fellow runner Shanika Musser. She gave a devotional book as a gift.
Mattox will participate in the 13-14 age group in Charlotte. Since the Foot Locker South Regional is not an open race, family and coaches believe it was in the best interest of Mattox to compete with the younger age group.
This is the first time that Starkville cross country coach Caroline Woomer has ever had a runner to participate in a meet like the Foot Locker South Regional.
It's not surprising to Woomer that Mattox is the first.
"It does make me proud," Woomer said. "She won every race she ran this year except for the Twilight meet when she was running with the elite. (The Foot Locker) is going to give her more competition. She's better when she has someone pushing her. I'm excited for her and this is just a 3K and not a 4K or 5K that we run in high school, so it's going to be fun for her.
"She has a very strong work ethic, no doubt about it. She can run more and longer. She works and wants to do her best. She believes she has been given a gift and wants to do the best she can with the gift she has."
Mattox has made it a habit to train hard in practice, do what the coaches say and consider what kind of competition she will face during practice.
Because of that dedication to the sport. Mattox has earned respect from her friends and cross country teammates.
"She's an inspiration because she's always got a good attitude about it," Kelly Coble said. "Even when she's really good, she's always encouraging everybody else."
Mattox expressed her thanks to her family, friends, her track coaches Woomer, Steve Griffin and Joe MacGown and soccer coach Anna Albritton for supporting her cross country endeavors. She also appreciates the Starkville Running Club for getting her started in running, and her church family for their support and especially her pastor, Sunday school teacher and youth leader.
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