MAIS State Meet Recap: Highlights and Awards

State Championship season is officially upon us! Here are all of the highlights and 'awards' from all of the fantastic performances that were run at the State Meet yesterday!


Race of the Meet: MAIS 5A Girls

The MAIS 5A Girls Race was perhaps one of the best races I have ever seen in the Mississippi private school circuit. The enormous pack that was at the 1 mile, they were still running 4-wide at 3k, and then the team race was out of this world. Just to give a preview of the team race, 1st and 3rd place were separated by 5 points, and 1-2 by 2 points. 

Simply put, it was awesome. The atmosphere, the individual and team tactics, the tense feel in the air because everybody knew how close it was. I simply can't put in words how exciting it was to watch, but one thing I can assure you - That is exactly how a state championship is supposed to be run. 

In the end, it ended up being a perfect storm for East Rankin Academy, with a strong 2-3 finish and a 30 second 3-5 spread got it done for a narrow 2 point victory over Simpson Academy, the #4 overall team in the state. Emily Williams was in 6th with around a mile to go and pulled through to a 3rd place finish. If Williams would have stayed in 6th, they would not have won. This is just one of many examples of how every point counts. 

It was a phenomenal race from all 3 teams of East Rankin, Simpson, and Columbia Academy, and this race was everything that it was hyped up to be. As a matter of fact, all hit automatic time qualifiers for the All-State Meet of Champs to be run on November 13, 2021 - Something that all the team and individual state champions did as well. 

The individual race was just as exciting as the team race, as there 4 girls still in it with a mile to go. Those 4 girls were Leah Collipp of East Rankin, Chloe Schexnayder of Oak Grove, and the pair from St. Aloyious, Hendrix Eldridge, and Samantha Edwards. Back and forth they would go entire over the entire 2nd mile, surging ahead and responding to each other, and not one of them showed signs of breaking. Then, 'the hill' approached, and Samantha Edwards pounced. 

The hill is a 400-meter climb within the last mile of the course, and it is where I have seen countless moves for the win be made. It is actually exactly where Keegan Leverett made his move to win the historical 2021 Watson race, and I even saw a couple of wins come from that hill yesterday. 

Edwards began the year as #2 on her team and ended the year as a state champion. I, unfortunately, was not able to interview her and congratulate her on her great improvement and accomplishments, but what an outstanding race from her and her teammate Eldridge, and I will be excited to see what they do at the All-State Meet. (Edwards has an automatic qualifier, while Eldridge will have to wait for a potential at-large bid)

Individual Performances of the Meet: William Fugate and Ella Rankin

Both Fugate and Rankin got their class records yesterday with stunning performances, Fugate winning 16:39 for the fastest time of the day on the guy's side and the only high school boy to break 17, and Rankin winning in 19:33, which was also the fastest time on the girl's side and the only high school girl to break 20 minutes. 

Fugate took the lead after the mile and never looked back, destroying the second half like he usually does and putting 47 seconds on Sid Stegall of Heritage, a 4:32 miler in his own right (this was Stegall's only race of the season due to injury). 

Fugate is the real deal, putting down some serious times whilst soloing the back half, and this was at 11:30 in the morning on a hot day. 

I also can't wait to see that state track meet against those 2 when Stegall is healthy. 

Ella Rankin, the 8th grader from Hartfield ranked #3 in the state and went 19:01 at Watson just 9 days prior, was going up against 10-time state champion Julia Stradinger. Rankin had taken down Stradinger at Watson, but Stradinger still had quite the resume going again. 

The race was off, and Rankin simply sat just off of Stradinger through 2k. Rankin and Stradinger were then neck and neck through 2 miles, with Rankin throwing down most of the surges. Then, right around a mile to go, Rankin made one final move, and there was no response from Stradinger, so Rankin just sent it. And 1 mile later, the 8th grader ended the streak, crowning a new state champion in that class since 2017. 

It is evident that Ella Rankin is the real deal - I don't know where she was for 4 weeks out of the season, but she came back a whole different runner and earned the first state title of her career and potentially many more. 

Team Performances of the Meet: PCS Boys and MRA Girls

In dominating pack running fashion, the Presbyterian Christian School Boys and Madison Ridgeland Academy girls won the MAIS Class 6A titles. PCS put 4 in the top 6 and 6 in the top 10, while MRA put 4 in the top 9 (Top 10 finish in the MAIS All-State position). 

The MRA girls have been practicing pack running all year, and it paid off in their class race, as each one of their girls marked Prep and made the jump on them at halfway, and simply ran away with it. That's the 3rd year in a row that MRA has 'upset' the Class title, as each year on paper they were not supposed to win. 

However, it was their junior high runners that stepped up big time and were perhaps the story of that team race, as their 3-6 runners consisted of 2 8th graders and 2 6th graders! That is awesome!! What a race for the middle schoolers who were led by upperclassmen Sloane Vinson and Abi Alden Benton, and with this team being so young, we could potentially see the beginning of a 'dynasty' in large school MAIS beginning to form. 

The boy's race almost went identical to the girls - PCS marked Prep, their biggest competition, made a move right around halfway, and then finished it off at 'the hill'. 

You would have thought that PCS were the huge favorites in the dominating fashion that they won. They easily won the meet in 20 points over Prep, went 3-6 and their #5 came through in 9th, and their 6th man was 10th just for some extra real estate. 

I love it when teams and individuals absolutely prove the facts wrong, which is exactly what happened in MAIS 6A. Speaking of which... 

Upset of the Meet: Elliot Davis

Elliot Davis of Jackson Prep, the freshman, could not have run a better race tactically. This is literally Davis's first-ever cross country season, but you would have thought he was a veteran. 

On a hot day, Davis decided to take things out a little more relaxed, coming through the mile as far as back as 5th after pre-race favorite Will Triplett, the senior who has run 16:35 this year, made sure the race got out hot. Immediately after the mile though, the party started for Davis, as he slowly worked through the field and picked the runners off 1-by-1. With less than a mile to go, Davis was in 2nd and closing hard on Triplett as they were running up 'the hill', which is that same hill that I've mentioned numerous times before on how it is the key part of this course. At the top of the hill with 1k to go, Davis caught Triplett and kept pushing all the way to the finish, winning in 17:17, a PR on a hot day and perhaps the biggest upset of the meet. 

(It should be noted that Triplett was forced to DNF after suffering from the hot conditions, and was transported to the hospital. The medical personnel took care of him, and he is recovering healthily). 

With that win, Davis automatically qualified for the All-State Meet, a race that I personally can't wait to see with this young talent can do. 

This kid's potential is sky-high. That state meet was his first-ever varsity state championship, and his 5th cross country race ever (he has won 3 out of his 5 races). If Davis were to really dive into cross country, we might see another Jack Hewes type of story...

Kick of the Meet: Jayce Wimbish

The easy pick for the biggest kick of the meet was Jayce Wimbish out of Prarie View Academy, absolutely assaulting the last half mile of the Class 3A race. With a little under half a mile to go, Wimbish was in 2nd place, and really not all that close to 1st place, which was Delta Street's, Daniel Vargus. The race had looked all but over. 

Wimbish then unleashed his kick and won by 13 seconds. 

Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Wimbish was that loyal to his race plan, and had the headspace to remain calm for that long whenever he was still in 2nd place with roughly 2 minutes left of running. However, we saw Wimbish's 4:47 speed come out of him that last 800 meters, and he was able to snag his first-ever cross country state title. 

Teammates of the Meet: St. Augustine Girls and Regents of Oxford Boys

It has absolutely no mystery why these teams are so successful in the classes that they are in. As a matter of fact, these 2 teams were some of the most dominant teams of the whole meet. 

Throughout the whole entire race, these teams were not only pack running, but they were having fun. They were encouraging each other, giving each other high fives and first bumps, and making sure each one was staying mentally checked in throughout the race. It was awesome and heart-warming to see, and this is a skill that the best collegiate and professional runners practice, and a skill that a lot of other teams can learn from.