Cross Country runner leads team in first season back from injury

Lina+May+leads+the+Golden+Eagles+with+four+Top+25+finishes+in+2021.++Photo+Courtesy+of+Southern+Miss+Athletics

Lina May leads the Golden Eagles with four Top 25 finishes in 2021. Photo Courtesy of Southern Miss Athletics

Junior Lina May has led Southern Miss Cross Country through its first four events this year.  May has reached new heights in her first outdoor season back from an injury that sidelined her in the previous season.

May, a seven-time high school state champion from Vancleave, Mississippi, shone in her first two seasons at Southern Miss. However, May suffered a stress fracture injury that took her out of the 2020 outdoor season. She said that, though her injury slowed her down, it also taught her valuable lessons.

“It was tough, that’s for sure,” May said. “It was a long process and whenever I got hurt, I was definitely in the best shape I’d been in my life. So when that happened, it was rough because I knew I was going to have a good cross season. [… It] was tough not getting to do the thing I love every single day and get out there and travel with the team, but I definitely learned from it.

May said she thinks of herself as a smarter runner now, as she understands the importance of recovery. But throughout her recovery process, when she trained by biking, swimming and aqua jogging, she still longed to get back on the trail. 

She had the opportunity to return to the track at the end of Southern Miss’s 2021 indoor campaign. While former Cross Country Head Coach Aaron Kindt insisted that May rest through this season, Head Coach Jon Stuart pushed for her to run.

May officially returned at the C-USA Indoor Championships, where she finished fifth in both the 3000m and 5000m races, earning key points for Southern Miss. Her points helped the team win its first Indoor Championship in program history.

“I was just so stoked and excited to get back out there again,” May said. “I always love running, I just feel free when I’m running and being stuck in a pool for three months or however long it was was not fun to me at all. I was just so excited and I wanted to go faster and start doing higher mileage instantly but I had to ease into it.”

This wasn’t the only change May had to get used to, either. Southern Miss announced Nick Gibson as the new Cross Country Head Coach weeks before the team’s first event. 

Though there were concerns about how the move would affect runners, May seems to have taken the change in stride. She eased into 16th place in the North Alabama Showcase with a personal record of 17:25.55 in the 5K, giving her the fifth-best time in the event in program history.

The showcase was only the start of a standout season for May, who has placed within the top 25 during all four of Southern Miss’s races this season, including a ninth-place finish at Notre Dame’s Joe Piane Invitational. Recently, she also managed a fourth-place finish at the C-USA Cross Country Championships.

The fourth-place finish, which she made with a time of 21:08.5, earned her First-Team All-Conference honors for the first time in her career.

“Lina has been that consistent piece at the top for our team all season,” Gibson said. “She’s worked extremely hard to put herself in the position that she’s in and I’m happy for her to get the recognition that she deserves with the All-Conference award.”

May said she handled the conference championships differently. Though she mostly felt left out of the competition as a freshman and sophomore, she was more comfortable competing this year. Still, she said learned some important things at this event.

“At the conference [championships], I felt like I was so far away from third place and whenever I was finishing, I felt like they were just way ahead of me and then looking back at the times, I realized I was only two seconds behind. […] I’ve definitely stepped back until I’m like what can I do to take it to the next level and what can I do better in any way,” May said.


May’s dedication to her sport shows through her rigid routine, as she gets up at 4:30 a.m. before practices. 

“I just feel like I’m still asleep if I don’t wake up an hour before. I like to drink my coffee, read my Bible in the morning and I just like to have some time to wake up and relax before we get out there and start running,” May said.

WUSM 88.5 FM’s 4th Street Sports Show interviewed Lina May Nov. 2.

However, May is not solely focused on her sport. She values her friendships immensely, and said that her experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic gave her a new perspective on rest and relationships.

“My priorities kind of shifted with COVID. Family, friends, your relationships — that’s what’s most important, not even school, not running,” May said.

May prioritizes balance, and tries playing guitar, enjoying coffee and hanging out with friends in her free time. She also frequently volunteers, and earned the C-USA Spirit of Service Award in 2019. Last month, she held a charitable event on campus that had all the proceeds go to the Edwards Street Fellowship Center.

Southern Miss Television Episode 5: Lina May Package by Austin Lindsey from 14:25 to 17:14

But, with less than two weeks until the NCAA South Regional, May once again pours her energy into the preparation process.

“I go into practice every day and show up focused and ready, not being afraid of the pain that’s going to be in that race and be ready to be uncomfortable. It’s a 24-hour job and it takes a lot of work[,] but I enjoy it,” May said.

May and Southern Miss Cross Country will travel to Huntsville, Alabama to participate in the NCAA South Regional on Nov. 12.