STEENS — The waiting was killing Chris Webber.
A first-place individual finish didn’t quiet Webber’s nerves. Seeing teammates Glenn Misiak and Nate Parker finish shortly after him made things a little easier, but Webber knew the Columbus Christian Academy boys cross country team needed two more runners to finish before the squad could win a second Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AA State title.
News from CCA Athletic Director Greg Watkins that a member of the team had caught a cramp made things even worse, so Webber ran down to a spot on the course to see if he could get a better look.
The waiting ended when Webber saw teammates Jaden Bennett and Jordan Meek.
“No one expected Jaden to do as well as he did,” Webber said last week. “Jaden really stepped it up. I was proud of him and Jordan. No one expected Jordan to do as good as he did.”
The finishes by Bennett (17th, 22 minutes, 38.37 seconds) and Meek (19th, 22:44.75) rounded out CCA’s top five scorers in the 5-Kilometer race and helped th team earn its second-consecutive state title last week at Choctaw Trails in Jackson.
For its effort, the CCA boys cross country team is The Dispatch’s Prep Player of the Week.
Webber (19:00.41) and Misiak (19:14.91) took the top two spots to help CCA score 43 points and outdistance Lamar Christian School, which was second with 69 points.
Nate Parker was fourth overall (20:11.16).
CCA senior Dawson Shaw, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the football team’s season opener in August, finished 45th (25:44.37).
Shaw admitted his leg hurt a little when he ran the course, but he said it was worth it to be a part of another state title. He said there was no way he was going to walk the course with a brace on his right leg, even if he might have told CCA boys cross country coach Billy Thomas that he would do just that if given an opportunity to dress out for the race.
“I knew we had a good chance to win it, but I heard there was another team (Laurel Christian) that was pretty good that would give up some competition, so I figured the higher up I finished we would have a better chance of winning,” Shaw said. “I wanted to help the team win state again.”
Shaw’s presence provided a lift for CCA. The Rams also received a boost from a prediction by MileSplit, a website that covers cross country and track and field in the state of Mississippi. The prediction said Laurel Christian was going to beat CCA by one point to take the title.
Webber said he wasn’t as made about the prediction as Thomas, but he acknowledged it gave the team added incentive.
“MileSplit doesn’t know kids’ hearts, and I figured a lot of people were going to step up at state, and I was proud of all of the guys who did,” Webber said.
Webber figured he and Misiak would finish one-two. He said a runner from Laurel Christian broke out to the lead and held it for the first half-mile before he reached the first spectator spot. He said the things he heard helped him use a burst to take the lead for the rest of the race. He said he would have enjoyed a better time, but he was more concerned about winning a state title.
Canton Academy girls cross country team, which won the state title in 2015, wasn’t able to repeat as champions. Watkins said the CCA boys saw what happened to the Canton Academy girls and that motivated the squad.
Still, Webber said he was nervous after he, Misiak, and Parker finished. It wasn’t until they saw their teammates come up over the hill that they could relax.
Misiak also was anxious after he finished. He, too, knew Laurel Christian was close, so he hoped his teammates would finish quickly. He didn’t have to wait too long, even if it seemed a lot longer than it was.
“Nate did really good,” Misiak said. “That wait for our fourth and fifth, I knew they were going to do good. It was just seeing what place they were going to come in. Thankfully they stepped it up and helped the team win the state championship.”
“It was awesome,” Misiak said. “I was so pumped for Jaden. He is a likable guy, Everyone likes him. When I saw him come up the hill, we started cheering him on all of the way to the finish line.”
Watkins said Jaden’s father told him that football has helped his son play through aches and pains. Misiak said Jaden was determined to have a great race in his final meet of his senior year.
Last year, Bennett finished 44th (26:04.95).
“It feels pretty good knowing what we could do all along that we finally accomplished that goal,” Misiak said. “I had a lot of faith in all of our guys, and I knew when it came crunch time all of our guys would step up.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.