CLINTON – In the MHSAA State Cross Country Meet, the Lafayette Commodores and head coach Taylor Langford weren’t expecting to win, but the goal was to take home some hardware at Choctaw Trails Saturday morning.
Yes, the ultimate goal is to win, but with a very strong Saltillo Lady Tiger team, that was going to prove to be a tall task and one that would require a major slip up by several members of the Lady Tigers which did not happen. Saltillo won the girls 5A Title with a very low 22 points, just seven points shy of a perfect score.
Lafayette finished runner-up with a respectable 54 points with Mia Dawson leading the way with a fifth place finish in a time of 20:12. Maine Lund (8th, 21:26) and Caroline Wilson (10th, 21:32) also received 5A All-State honors. Collyn Lewis (16th, 22:14) and Della Shackelford (19th, 22:38) also scored points for the Lady ‘Dores.
“Saltillo being strong is an understatement, but we wanted to come out and just have some really good races,” Langford said after completing his first season as a head coach for both the boys and girls teams. “We knew we had a chance at a trophy; we knew we had a chance at second place and the girls ran great today one through seven.”
Saltillo’s top five runners all finished in the top seven, and all seven of Saltillo’s racers finished in the top 14 in the girls 5A State Meet, with all of them finishing with All-State honors. Saltillo has two seniors who will graduate that finished in the top five, while Lafayette will return all of their top seven runners for next season.
“We had a great summer, possibly the kids being locked up for three months beforehand had something to do with it,” Langford said about his team’s strong performance this season. “We had a great summer and just coming up with ways for us to practice safely, for us to do things safely and getting them out and back going.”
Langford said that his first season as the head man was a learning curve, not just with COVID-19, but with some of the details to enter meets this season.
“I had to learn how to do all the paperwork (to enter meets) because (former Lafayette Cross Country) Coach (Ben) Mikell wasn’t there to do it, so that’s one it was was just getting everybody registered and getting all the paperwork taken care of which was a little bit more than I thought it was,” Langford said about what he’s learned and how he will remember his first season. “It’s forever going to be linked of course to COVID. Starting in June, we had no idea if we were going to get a full summer’s worth of practice in. Starting in August, we had no idea if we get a season in. We had no idea if we were going to get a meet in. To be able to make it through the season, to finish strong. Our boys team were ranked ninth going into today and they bump all the way up to fifth place today. They just ran amazingly well. I absolutely loved this year and could not have gone any better.”
The Lafayette boys team did not have a runner place well enough to receive All-State honors, but overall several runners ran their best times. The Commodores were led by Bralen Williams who finished 17th with a time of 18:28. He was followed by Watson Williamson (26th, 19:49), Lisandro Escobedo (31st, 19:58.8), Issac Delira-Reyes (32nd, 19:58.9), and Adin Droubay (43rd, 20:41) finished out the scoring runners for the boys. Bryson Beltran (62nd, 21:51), and James T. Browning (67th, 22:12) rounded out Lafayette’s top seven runners.
“They had some of their best races of the year,” Langford said of the boys team. “Could not be more proud of them. We had an eighth grader come in fifth on the team, so he was our final (scoring) racer. He was the reason we came in fifth overall. Without his points that doesn’t happen. One through seven, it was a perfect day for running, they took advantage of it and some of their best races of the year.”
Lafayette boys finished fifth overall with 145 points, four points shy of fourth play Long Beach at 141. Brookhaven won the boys 5A title with 29 points, seven points ahead of Saltillo’s 36. Neshoba Central finished third with 94 points.