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McKissic building solid cross country program

Cameron Pack, left, and Lance Pappilion are two of the top returning runners from last season’s Morrow cross country team, which reached the state meet. (Special Photo)

Cameron Pack, left, and Lance Pappilion are two of the top returning runners from last season’s Morrow cross country team, which reached the state meet. (Special Photo)

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Cameron Pack gets in some training during the preseason in hopes of leading Morrow back to the Class AAAAAA meet in November. (Special Photo)

MORROW — Excuse the Morrow cross country team if it seemed a bit out of place last year at the Class AAAAAA meet in Carrollton.

In a sense, the runners were a little out of their element, and it showed.

Morrow finished 30th out of 32 teams at the state meet.

Coach Anthony McKissic chalks it up as a learning experience for his group, which finished fourth last season in Region 2-AAAAAA to advance to the state meet. They were the only county team to reach the state meet.

“Our expections are to go back to the state meet, and be competitive,” McKissic said. “The goal is to win county and make the state meet.”

Last season, Morrow was second to Forest Park in the county meet.

It seems the success of last season had a big impact on the runners, as three of the five top runners participated in a summer track program. McKissic said that is a big step in trying to build a competitive program, especially in the state’s top class, which is dominated by teams from Gwinnett, Cobb and north Fulton county schools.

Being at their first state meet was definitely an eye-opening experience for a young group last season. Held in Carrollton, there was a large crowd that line the finish line and teams setup tents to relax before their races.

“It was a culture shock to them at the state meet,” McKissic said. “We had never been to a big meet like that in the past. My runners didn’t have any ideal of the level of competition that they were running against. I’m happy for the exposure that they got at the state meet.”

To ensure there is no “culture shock” this time around if his team qualifies for state, McKissic has upgraded the schedule to include some bigger meets. He wanted his team to run against some higher level of competition to take away the intimidation factor.

Returning to the team from last season is Cameron Pack, Kelcey Price, Austin Gray, Courtland White, and Lance Pappillion. Pack

Price and Pappillion are the only seniors in the group, which should serve as a solid foundation for the team to build.

Returning to the team from last season is Cameron Pack, Kelcey Price, Austin Gray, Courtland White, and Lance Pappillion. Pack was the highest finisher for the Mustangs last season at state when he finished at 19 minutes, 24 second for 155th place out of 220 eligible scorers at the meet.

Price was second in scoring on the team.

“Now that they have been to state, it easier for me to get them to work harder in practice,” McKissic said. “They know what they need to do to become better runners. I can easily tell them to do five to six miles without any hestitation. Seeing what happened at the state meet has really pushed them. They want to reach that next level.”

This will be McKissic’s second year over the cross country program, and he said it’s headed in the right direction. He said more people are becoming interested in joining the team.

“Last year’s group left a good legacy for the program,” he said. “The younger kids are working harder. I think last year has motivated everyone to push harder to get to that next level. We are trying to build the program for the future, and the younger kids are pushing to get better.”

There is also a good pedigree among the runners on the team.

Gray is the younger brother of former Morrow track standout Adolphus Gray, who is now running at Georgia. Pack’s older brother is on track scholarship at Albany State, and their cousin is Waymon Storey, who runs for Oklahoma.

“I think these guys want to reach tht level that their brothers and cousins did at the school,” McKissic said. “It really pushes them.”