The Mississippi College men and women’s cross country teams are off to a great start this season. MC hosted the season opener at Choctaw Trails in the beginning of September. The men’s team claimed the No. 1 spot against 13 NCAA and NAIA schools, and the women’s team finished in second place behind Division I member, Southern Miss. Both Mississippi College cross country teams are led by some of the strongest runners in the GSC.
Senior Abbie Easter and Junior Jordan Pritchard are two leading runners for the blue and gold cross country teams. A transfer from Lake Erie in Painesville, Ohio, Pritchard led the men’s team in their season opener. He finished in third place with a time of 16:34.20. He was also named “Wright and Ferguson Athlete of the Week.” Running all four years with the Choctaws, Easter finished in the top seven for the Lady Choctaws. Overall, she finished in 17th place with a time of 16:17.79.
Easter and Pritchard both began running at an early age, but it was due to the encouragement of others that they really got into cross country. Aside from joining the soccer team in middle school, running was never on Abbie’s radar, at least until the 7th grade. “My best friend actually made me join the cross country team. That’s when I started running.” For Pritchard, running was just something his parents made him do in the 4th grade. “I’ve always been really fast, and I was always running around in the yard. So, my parents made me do track.” He didn’t start running cross country until his junior year of high school because he was focused on other sports, like basketball.
When most people think of running, they usually imagine an individual sport, but there is a team aspect to it. Easter says, “It is individualized in the sense that you’re always trying to beat your personal record, but it’s also a team in the fact that we focus a lot on running together as a pack.” She says it’s easier to run with teammates beside you who push you harder than if you were alone. Pritchard says team scoring is emphasized in cross country versus track because every team member is valuable.
Both Easter and Pritchard have individual goals for this season, too. In her last year of running with the Choctaws, Easter aims to be more of a leader. “There’s several seniors this year. We wanna leave the team in a good place.” She hopes to continue bettering her personal record and finish in the top seven to qualify for regionals. For Pritchard in his first year at MC, he wants to have a high team finish. “Hopefully I can get all-conference and all-regional this fall.”
Finally, they decided what they enjoy most about running. Pritchard says his favorite thing is seeing his progress. “It’s just seeing where you’ve started and where you’ve come. When I first started running, I could barely run a lap, and now I can do, like, 15 miles.” For Easter, it’s the same idea, but her teammates are what makes it enjoyable. “It’s a totally different relationship — having to put yourself through those challenges and having somebody to do that beside you.”
The men and women’s team practice together every weekday morning to prepare for their next meet. Both teams will travel to Memphis, Tenn., where they will compete in the Rhodes Invitational on Sept. 16.