For several of the area track athletes who have found success on the high school level, their journey started with the local youth track program, the Southwest Mississippi Road Runners.
The summertime program was started by Charlie Floyd and is currently managed by Victor Montgomery.
“Every year we have kids go to college, either Division I, Division II, NAIA or either juco,” Montgomery said. “Last year we had four seniors, and all of those kids signed on to go to college.”
Kids from ages 5 to 18 make up the team, which practices on the track at John I. Hurst Stadium at Southwest Mississippi Community College.
Assistant coach Joe Taylor, who also heads the track and field program at North Pike High School, says the Roadrunners consist of kids not only from Pike County but also from Amite and Walthall counties.
He adds that they hold the children to the same standards that a high school team would.
“We instill academics,” he said. “We make sure that they do have good grades. It is not only academics, but it is also behavior.”
McComb High School’s Donovan Hurst, one of the team’s distance runners, is very thankful to be a part of the program.
“It keeps me in shape,” he said. “Without this I wouldn’t stay in shape, it wouldn’t keep me healthy. It takes you far and helps you go places. You are out here with your friends.”
Also on the team is Kharel Coney, another McComb athlete who made his mark on the school’s track program this past season.
Coney echoes what Hurst said about becoming a better track athlete by participating in the Roadrunner program, adding that it has helped him set better personal records.
“This helps a lot,” he said. “This is the reason I P.R.’d (personal record) in most of my races in track season. It helped me get better.”
Coney, who is also a staple on the Tiger football team, is a sprinter for the Roadrunners.
Another sprinter who says running with the Roadrunners benefits him on the football field as well is Amite County’s Maja Thompson.
“I’m grateful for it,” said Thompson, who is in his first year of running in the program. “It gets me faster for football.”
One of the young competitors on the team is 7-year-old Talaysha Jackson, who said she is really enjoys being on the team.
She is also very thankful for the coaches.
“They push us for the track meet and make sure that we get ready,” she said.
The current season is the first that Montgomery, along with Kristie Robinson will be taking over full time after Floyd retired last year.
Montgomery is anxious to see how well his squad will perform.
“This is going to be a good year,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to the season.”