Within seconds past the start of the Van Buren Classic, a sarcastic “Thanks sister” could be heard from Mansfield cross country runner Hope Rainwater. The senior runner was given the business end of her twin sister’s fast start off the muddy line, and she was motivated to respond out loud.
The quicker of the two siblings, Faith Rainwater, flung mud from her feet like the tire spray of a 4-wheeler stuck in muck. Within seconds of the senior girls’ 5K race on Mansfield’s most recent road trip, Hope felt the unwelcome splatter of water and mud on her face, arms, and legs. It hardly mattered though as the Mansfield sisters along with everyone else that ran the soggy bottoms along Van Buren’s Pointer Trail found a free mud bath.
The Rainwater girls and Tiger teammates entered the two-day meet located just below the Van Buren High School campus at the Freshman Academy. On Friday, October 15, the opening rounds began with the junior high divisions running just after the afternoon rains stopped. The next morning on Saturday, the meet continued with the senior high pairings privileged with ripened puddles from the previous day.
Three of Mansfield’s seniors and one junior all made the awards announcements on day two. A freshman and an eighth-grader made the medal roll call on day one.
Darby Jones, as she has done all season, was the Lady Tiger’s top finisher for the senior high. Faith Rainwater and McKenzie Griffin were also among the top in the small school rankings. Junior Jadelynn Wood was the group’s fourth medal recipient.
Jones climbed into contention versus all participants early in the race. She worked the pack passing players from both big and small school divisions. The senior peaked at number three in the 1A-4A grouping and fifth place overall.
Only Ella Gray of Episcopal Collegiate and Julia Whorton of Gravette crossed the small school finish before Mansfield’s Jones. Gray was listed as the state’s second-ranked runner among all class 3A runners. Whorton sported the number one ranking among the state’s class 4A participants.
Jones earned her tenth consecutive medal of the season. Her mark of 21:45.97 for the bronze medallion at Van Buren wrapped up Mansfield’s regular-season schedule.
Faith Rainwater finished ninth for the Lady Tigers. It was her eighth award winner in ten tries this season. The senior closed fast posting a time of 23:34.06 for the soupy sludge 5K course.
Wood bounced back with a 13th place finish after missing some training time in recent weeks. Her 3 loop measurement was 24:02.50.
Griffin took the last of the Top 15 medals. The senior forged ahead of most with a mark just five seconds behind Wood.
Hope Rainwater made it past in 23rd place to secure the team score. Together the Mansfield top five posted a combined score of 50. That put the Lady Tigers into third place among scoring teams.
Episcopal won the small school title with 46 points. Gravette came in second with 49 points as the top three teams were within a four-point range.
Mansfield freshman Laney Wood was third at Friday’s junior high 2-mile race. The prep team’s top performer was eighth overall. Her time was 13:57.57.
Wood will join the older high school team at the Southwest Regional next on October 20 in preparation for the state meet on November 4.
Tiger eighth-grader Joey Fildes was fourth in the junior boys’ race. The Mansfield marquee runner has medaled in every meet this season. His Van Buren time was 12:15.77.
Mansfield’s top five junior boys were Fildes, Rylan Nichols, Jonah Martin, Braxton Bartlett, and Joseph Carter. Collectively the group placed fourth as a team behind Waldron, West Fork, and Pottsville.
The top five for the Mansfield junior girls were Laney Wood, Aidan Fildes, Addie Bowman, Ashley Martin, and Danielle Lowery. They were third as a team behind Pottsville and West Fork.