All runners have that one race burned into their minds; they can remember every detail of that day; the sharp turns, counting down the mile markers, charging up a grueling hill, sounds of cheering spectators, and the feeling of relief when crossing the finish line. Choctaw Trails is one of the most pristine cross country courses in Mississippi and has held many memorable races.
The history of the Choctaw Trails is known throughout the community; it was established in the 1970s by Coach Joe Walker for Mississippi College, and it was named "Watson Cross Country Course" after receiving so much support from Robert Watson.
The trail has hosted thousands of high school invitationals, and even NCAA conference meets as well. Recently after many years of use, Choctaw seemed beaten down by mother nature and torn up by runners spikes. Coach Mathew Reneker saw this as an opportunity to address some overdue issues concerning the trail and hopefully improve the course for the community.
The plan to update Choctaw Trails was put into motion in December of 2019. Coach Reneker and assemble of athletic enthusiasts discussed the significant issues with the trails landscaping, such as the sinkholes, footing, ditches, roots, and fallen trees. Another focus point on Choctaw Trails was to enhance the spectators' experience by giving spectators more opportunities to view runners several times throughout the race.
When addressing potential concerns regarding the changing of the course, Coach Reneker reflected that "Change is scary; some people enjoy it; others don't. My goal is to look at both sides. I want to preserve the course and take the opportunities that we can to make it great."
Coach Reneker has 20 years of cross country experience and has designed four courses, so there is no doubt that Choctaw Trails is in good hands. The renovated trail will focus on creating a memorable atmosphere for the runners. The starting line will be visible to spectators stretching for 600 meters before the runners turn the corner into the woods. The 5k course will now be a smaller circuit loop, meaning they'll run it at least two times; these types of cross country courses are used for elite races such as Nike and Footlocker Cross Country Nationals. "The course will embrace its scenic nature while providing better access to cheer on runners as they pass by." To enhance the spectators' view of the race, Coach Reneker has decided to make sure there will be bleachers to seat people, where they have an excellent look at the finish. Another exciting feature is the new clock across the finish line, as runners sprint up the hill they'll be able to see their time.
Besides Choctaw Trails' new additions, the updates will bring opportunities. Coach Reneker is passionate about his work and sees so much potential in Choctaw Trails. "I'm thinking of the long term goals that the new trail could bring. It could build a network of coaches, and they could be advocates for cross country, which could lead to more races being held at Choctaw Trails."
"What I'm most looking forward to about the trail is getting to talk to coaches and runners about their experience. Even though the trail will be completed, it's not a finished product yet. I appreciate getting feedback from those who visit Choctaw Trails and hear their input. My goal is to listen to them and incorporate their ideas into improving the trails."
The Early Bird Invitational will be the 1st meet hosted at the updated Choctaw Trails and planned to happen on August 29th. Click here to register for the Season Opener.