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By DANNY P. SMITH
The interest in running cross country meets at the Mississippi Horse Park in Starkville is growing.
There's no better indication of that than the response the Starkville High School Invitational brings.
According to SHS cross country coach Caroline Woomer, the entries have doubled in the second year of the event with 448 entries and 15 total teams scheduled to participate.
"Everybody likes the course," Woomer said. "I promoted it a lot last year and sent an email to every coach. This year, the school year has been so busy that I wasn't able to do that this year. Even though I didn't get to promote it like I wanted to, we still have three or four more teams than we did last year.
"The teams like the location and know the course from the Mississippi State meet. Our meet really ran well last year. People liked it a lot and it was convenient for them and they got to run around Starkville that afternoon."
The event attracts five community sponsors with Callaway Orthodonics being the top sponsor. SHS cross country booster club president Robyn Remotigue said running a meet such as this would not be possible if it were not for the sponsors and the dedication of the cross country parents.
Today marks the second-straight year for the meet and it begins with the junior varsity girls run at 9 a.m. The varsity starts at 10 a.m. and there will be an awards ceremony at approximately 11:15 a.m.
With Pearl and Tupelo scheduled to participate, Woomer believes that will make for an interesting matchup with her squad.
She did say there are four varsity boys that will have to miss the meet due to FFA competition in Indianapolis.
"Cross country runners are usually very intelligent," Woomer said. "You can't complain because they are missing for a good reason, but you can complain because they're not here."
The Jackets and Lady Jackets have enjoyed success on the various courses this season.
Woomer knew Starkville had a chance to be good, but admits it's probably been better than anticipated with times "15 to 20 seconds better on average per athlete." She's anxious to see how the cooler than normal temperatures will come into play today.
"It's been so hot, but usually you run better in the cold, but it has gotten colder and windy so fast," Woomer said.