Published 12:00 am Friday, September 15, 2000

Thornell, White pass torch to Lady Flash Horn

For all of Eric Solis’ six years at Vicksburg High, he has coached the dominant girls cross country runner in Warren County.

First it was Rebecca Thornell, who went on to star at Southern Mississippi. Then came Keri White, who shattered the state 3,200-meter record and blistered cross country courses all over the state.

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But now, White is a freshman at USM, leaving Vicksburg in a position it hasn’t seen in a long time underdog.

Solis doesn’t have to look far, however, for who could be the next runner to shatter records statewide.

Allison Horn, a freshman at St. Aloysius, ran competitively last year as an eighth-grader and, coming into Saturday’s Vicksburg Bankers Association/Ready Mix Concrete Cross Country Invitational, Horn is the favorite not only to improve on her fourth-place finish last year, but to win the girls championship.

“I saw her run (Wednesday) and she looked very strong,” Solis said. “I would think she should win. I would be surprised if she didn’t.

“We don’t have a person on our team like her this year, but if we can’t have one, I’d like someone from Vicksburg to win. Everybody says Vicksburg runners are good, and I’d like to see her maintain the tradition.”

Horn, a vibrant 14-year-old, is well aware of the pressure on her after a stellar first season running for a varsity team. She also knows that White pushed her last year.

“I tried to beat her every meet,” Horn said. “Everybody’s been telling me that this year everyone would be expecting me to win every meet. I’m kind of nervous about this Saturday.”

Solis said Horn’s main competition in the 15-team meet should come from Pearl’s Jackie Rentschler.

More than 300 runners from as far away as Meridian and Laurel will converge on Memorial Stadium for the 10 a.m. meet.

The girls will run the hilly, two-mile course at 10, followed by the boys in a three-miler at 10:30. Junior varsity action will begin at 9.

St. Andrew’s took both the boys and girls titles a season ago, and Solis said the Saints and Pearl should be considered the favorites to win the team title in this, the fifth year of the meet.

White captured the top spot a year ago while St. Andrew’s William Drinkwater, who will return this year, won the boys title.

Horn, who came within 16 seconds of beating White last year and lost the Class 1A state meet by one second, said she didn’t mind too much because the runners who beat her were seniors.

“In the first meet last year, I ran a 13:56 and that wasn’t very good,” Horn said. “But after that, I got better.”

And she should keep getting better.

“I think, if she trains and is coached right, could just get better and better,” Solis said.

“Sometimes when I saw her run, I just went goodness, how could she be this good.’ She just seemed to get faster and faster.

“She has the potential to definitely break all of the 1A records in a year or year and a half.”