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Lincoln County is cross-country country

The top spot on the podium at the MHSAA 2A cross country state championship was an all Lincoln County affair Wednesday as junior Tiler Castillo of West Lincoln and sophomore Aubrey Britt of Loyd Star swept the boys’ and girls’ championships, respectively.

It was a three-peat for Britt who won her race with a time of 20 minutes and 16 seconds flat. Of her three state titles, this one was the most dominating as Britt crossed the finish line 28 seconds ahead of her closest competitor, junior Saydee Taylor of New Site.

A year after finishing in second place with a time of 18:14 — just seven seconds behind the winner — Castillo grabbed his first state championship medal by improving his time to 17:53. That was four seconds better than second place finisher Bryce Harrison of the Mississippi School for Math and Science.

Last year Britt was 15 seconds better than Mia Card of Baldwyn as she used a big kick up the final hill at Choctaw Trails to separate herself and claim the title. As an eighth grader Britt captured her first title with a 19 second victory over a senior runner from East Union.

The competitors have come and gone, but Britt has kept her stranglehold on the top spot in 2A. She’s also done that while being a key member of the varsity basketball and softball teams beginning last season as a freshman.

“It was definitely not as much of a challenge this year, but there were still some very strong competitors in the race that kept me on my toes,” said Britt. “It does get tough trying to work in all three sports, but I try to stay on the same running schedule. It is definitely challenging but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Senior Natalie Bonds of Wesson finished in 15th place and West Lincoln eighth grader Lasadria Stewart was the 21st finisher while her teammate and fellow eighth grader Ana King was 24th.

Castillo’s older brother Ashtin finished in 22nd place for WL and sophomore Alex Leake was right behind him in 23rd place. West Lincoln sophomore Chase Spring was the 25th finisher. The Loyd Star duo of Roberto Galindo and Leondre Dodds finished in 30th and 37th place respectively.

There were 88 runners in the girls’ race and 100 competitors in the boys’ event.

When West Lincoln lost senior leader Jonathan Mathis to graduation last season he predicted that Castillo would only get faster and be a Bear to watch as a junior this season.

His coach says that’s exactly what happened.

“After losing some great runners last year to graduation Tiler knew he’s have to step up into a leadership role and he handled it well,” said running Bears head coach Greg Allen. “He’s got a big heart and pushed himself more this year than he ever has before. He’s a wonderful young man to coach and has a great future ahead of him.”

As a team the Bears finished fourth overall in the 13-team field.

“I have to give the most credit to my coach for pushing not only me, but my team though the long, hot summer,” said Castillo. “It also took a lot of self-motivation to push through the runs some days. I also used the memory of what it felt like to fall short on the final mile last year and that played a big role in how hard I worked this season.”

Expect Castillo to be a favorite this time next year when the state meet rolls around again.

The challenge for Britt next year will be to do something that no one else accomplished this year, win a girls’ state cross-country championship as a junior.

Britt and 5A champ Brooklyn Biancamano of Long Beach each picked up a third straight title as sophomores. The 4A title was won by a senior while the 1A and 3A events had eighth grade winners and the 5A champ was a seventh grader.

Those who know Britt best know she has what it takes to keep her run going.

“Aubrey is blessed with a natural ability, but also with a self-determination to be the best,” said her high school coach Michelle Case. “She puts in the required mileage each week despite playing two other sports and the also goes an extra mile or two for greater success.”