It’s eight cross country state championship sweeps and counting for Corinth High School.
Can they make it nine in 2021?
Third-year CHS boys Head Coach Luke Hatcher and new Girls Head Coach Emory Kirk have teams stacked and ready to defend their 2020 titles. The new season begins on Aug. 27 when both Warrior squads take on a talented field of challengers at the Brooks (Ala) HS Meet.
“We’re excited to get started and see if we can bring home another state championship this year,” said Hatcher. “Coach Kirk and I have meshed really well and I’m anxious to see what she can do with the girls as they seek to win another state title as well.”
The Warriors bring back six of their top seven, the only loss being Will Wayne to graduation. Everyone else returns. including top runner Parker LeGoff, who finished third overall in the state championship meet last November in Clinton.
“Parker is definitely our leader and will once again set the pace for our team,” Hatcher said. “But overall, we have a group of runners in the top seven, and even beyond that, that push themselves to be better every day. They feel confident every time they race that they should win. That’s what confidence and a history of winning titles do for a team.”
The Warriors own 11 state championships since 2003, as do the Lady Warriors, so the tradition that the Corinth Brand has established is something that has been built over time.
In fact, the word dynasty has crept into the conversation when it comes to the Corinth Cross Country program.
“We are proud of the tradition we’ve built here and it shows every time our guys take to the trails,” said Hatcher.
The Warriors return not only LeGoff but five of the remaining six in the top group of seven, which is the number of runners that race for championships.
Also coming back for the CHS boys is John Thomas Draper, Will Steward, Lisandro Martin-Pascual, Ricardo Venegas, George Davis, Chase Drewery and Andrew Ayala. Each one was named All-Division a year ago.
“I also feel really good about our group from spots eight through 20. They are all consistently within 10 to 15 seconds of each other. And if something happens and one or more of my top seven can’t run a race I feel confident one of those young men can step in and the team won’t lose a beat,” Hatcher said.
The Warriors outdistanced second-place Pontotoc by 22 last year to earn the state title.
“The boys have been working hard and came back in great shape when we started training and running the second week of June,” said Hatcher. “I’m anxious to see how we start out at our first race at Brooks.”
Kirk, who takes over for former Head Coach Deb Parker, has been the girl’s cross country coach at Ripley for the last four years but realizes she is stepping into a program that has a vaulted reputation across the state as the premier 4A program in Mississippi at the current time.
“I think, honestly, what makes this program (Corinth) what it is is the kids,” said Kirk. “It’s been a joy so far getting to know them and watching them work out and run with such passion and purpose. They just illuminate what a state champion should be.”
The new Lady Warriors coach will enjoy the luxury this fall of welcoming back every single runner from last year’s top seven and a talented group from spots eight on down that will be nipping at their hills this fall.
“These are awesome and talented girls that love each other and push each other to be the best they can be,” said Kirk. “I’m excited to get the season started and ride this thing out with the girls.”
The top 2020 runners, Andi Kate Holley and Emma Hall, will return to be the pacesetters for the girl’s squad. Both finished in the overall top four at last year’s state championship, where they blew past the competition, including a 41-point advantage over second-place Mooreville.
Holley won the bronze in Clinton (third place) while Hall was right behind her in fourth.
Others in the top seven back for 2021 are Sheridan Shipp, Elise Wilbanks, Catherine Grisham, Adelyn Mathis, Odilia Pascual, Madison Gates and Rachel Williams.
That’s actually nine in the top seven but any mixture of that lineup could be in the top-seven group when it comes time to defend their state championship.
By the way, each Lady Warrior listed above was named to the All-Region Team, all finishing in the top 14 in 1-4A.
Holley, Hall and Wilbanks were also named All-State.