Talk of the Town: Magic in Mooreville & Course Records Fall

Magic in Mooreville led by Bailey Kosko

When history beckons, runners like Bailey Kosko answer.

The 2023 Mooreville XC Invitational was a testament to this as Kosko etched his name in golden letters, shattering the course record previously held by the legendary Dylan Allen, Mooreville's own running prodigy. The perfect storm of favorable weather, a firm course, and minimal elevation gain set the stage for what was a record-breaking performance and an electrifying meet.

While Kosko's most recent fifth rank on the All-MileSplit Mississippi XC team was commendable, his latest feat amplifies his claim to a higher spot. Taking over the reins from a 10-time MHSAA 4A champion like Allen speaks volumes about his talent and determination. And it's not just about individual accolades; Kosko's performance also catapults him to the third spot in his team's historical ranks, breezing past contemporary luminaries like Luke Johnson, Ethan Knight, and Tristan Orman.

As the 2023 Saltillo Cross Country Invitational looms, all eyes will undoubtedly be on this Oxford star. But it's essential to note that Kosko's brilliance did not shine alone. The meet saw a cascade of stellar times from the likes of Brodie Moore (16:09), Sam Johnson(16:12), Jeb Hamilton(16:17), and three other athletes who clocked sub-17 5K(XC) runs.

The Mississippi Cross Country season is heating up, and runners like Kosko are ensuring it's one for the books.

Lilly Overby runs 19:01 5K in Pensacola, #1 time in state

Lilly Overby has thrown down the gauntlet for all Mississippi Cross Country runners.

After being recently ranked seventh on the All-MileSplit Mississippi XC Team, Overby's electrifying 19:01 5K(XC) performance at the 2023 Gulf Coast Stampede not only propelled her to a third-place finish in an elite lineup but also stamped her claim to the fastest 5K XC time in the state this season.

While many variables play into a runner's time on any given day, Overby's performance cannot be downplayed - especially when she slashed a whole one minute and 37 seconds from her last year's time at the same event and climbing an astounding ten spots higher than her previous year's meet.

Overby wasn't the only shining star; her teammate Layla Warren's commendable 19:59 finish, landing her in 11th place, underscores the top-end of talent on this team. Additionally, Warren came back two days later to win the 2023 Jackson Academy XC Invitational just two days after the Gulf Coast Stampede was contested. 

Katherine Neal takes NW Rankin course record, 90 second win

Pearl High School's Katherine Neal has been on a role. 

Launching her season at The Opener, Neal turned in a top-10 finish, despite the sweltering heat of early September and the stiff competition. Finishing eighth overall, she proudly represented the Lady Pirates as the fourth Mississippian to cross the line. But what truly sets this performance apart is the 26-second personal best she achieved.

Yet, Neal didn't rest on her laurels; she tackled the grueling 2023 Fleet Feet Invitational's hilly terrain, decimating the course record by 35 seconds, and claimed victory with an astounding lead of almost two minutes.

And whose record did she obliterate? None other than the legendary Brooklyn Biancamano of Long Beach.

Neal has been on fire lately, and does not show any signs of slowing.  

As if the Fleet Feet Invitational wasn't already charged with excitement, Madison Central's Braxton Rea thundered through in the Varsity Boys 5K, clinching a significant 25-second win and clocking the No. 2 course record time at 17:36.8. Rea's course time edges out former Brookhaven star Grayson Childress, and is just behind yet another former Brookhaven standout, Sam Arnold.

Additionally, speaking of the Brookhaven squad, it's the Brookhaven High School Panthers team that deserves a standing ovation.

Despite facing the formidable Madison Central, the young Brookhaven squad pulled off a victory. While Madison Central wasn't at full strength, missing their ace, Colin Brannon, the achievement is a testament to Brookhaven's depth and potential.

Eyes will undoubtedly be on the next drop of team rankings, anticipating a potential shift upwards for this fiery squad.

Rising up the Ranks: Oak Grove Boys, Pillow Academy Girls

This season's cross country arena is witnessing unexpected teams rise from the shadows, rewriting rankings and reshuffling expectations. Two standout teams currently making waves are the Oak Grove High School boys and the Pillow Academy girls.

Starting the season on the periphery of top-10 preseason rankings, Oak Grove's boys have rapidly climbed the ladder, showcasing that they're not just within the top-10 but pushing hard for a top-5 position.

Led by MHSAA 7A standout Grayson Taylor, their recent performance at The Opener is a testament to their potential. With both Taylor and the emerging talent, Matthew McGuire, finishing among the top six in that race, the Warriors secured an impressive third overall finish, only surpassed by the dominant Pearl Pirates in Mississippi competition.

While they might need additional strength to vie with giants like Tupelo and Madison Central, writing them off would be premature.

On the other side, the Pillow Academy girls, a relative newcomer to the Mississippi Girls Cross Country scene, are defying all expectations.

Their rapid ascendancy is noteworthy to say the least. Racing with the wisdom and strategy of seasoned pros, the Lady Mustangs, led by No. 1 runner Emma Beckwith, have already turned heads. Their narrow miss against No. 1 ranked East Rankin Academy at the 2023 Park Place Invitational, as well as their recent edge-of-the-seat performance at the 2023 Hickory Flat Invitational, missing the top spot by a mere one point to Corinth High School, are undeniable evidence of their mettle.

Both Oak Grove and Pillow Academy are teams to watch. With every race, they're challenging preconceived notions and hinting at potential surprises as the season advances.

Quick Hits:

  1. East Rankin Lady Patriots - East Rankin Academy's stellar run at the 2023 Forerunners Light it Up at the Lakeshore Invitational was another feather in their cap, maintaining an unbeaten streak. They outclassed prominent teams like Columbia Academy and Hattiesburg Forerunners.

  2. Ally Murphy - The Myrtle middle school prodigy has been turning heads, evident from her win at the 2023 Mooreville XC Invitational's Varsity Girls 5K. Clocking a personal best of 19:47.8, Ally Murphy has set a bar for herself.

  3. Clinton High School - With Jonah Barnhardt and Kaedyn Wilson leading from the front, Clinton reigned supreme at the 2023 French Camp Invitational. Their assertive victories by 56 and 43 points on the men's and women's sides, respectively, make them a team to watch.

  4. MRA Lady Patriots - The Madison Ridgeland Academy Lady Patriots showcased their mettle at the 2023 Jackson Academy Invitational, securing a convincing 12 point victory over the skilled Simpson Academy.

  5. Silvestre Lopez of Corinth - With his golden streak this season, Silvestre Lopez secured his third consecutive race win, making his cross country season truly cinematic.

  6. Christopher Atkinson of Park Place - Dominating the 2023 Jackson Academy Invitational, Christopher Atkinson's win by a staggering 50 seconds in 17:15.3 marks his third triumph this season.

  7. Kaydi Blanchard from Lewisburg - Kaydi Blanchard consistent improvement this season culminated in a win at the 2023 Hickory Flat Invitational, recording a time of 20:33.0. This win, with a 10-second margin, became the fifth fastest course record time.