Mansfield senior cross country runner Faith Rainwater, seated center, inks her letter of intent to run collegiately next season for UA Rich Mountain.
Among family and friends, Mansfield senior Faith Rainwater took the next step in her highly recognizable running career. The 2-time All State cross country runner made it official on January 6, 2022. She will now be a University of Arkansas Rich Mountain Buck.
Rainwater officially inked her letter of intent to attend UA Rich Mountain, a comprehensive community college nestled in nearby Mena, Arkansas, in the early first hour of school this past Thursday.
The paperwork was completed in a small but intimate setting along the state championship trophies lining the lobby of Mansfield Tiger Gymnasium. The signature authored by the Lady Tiger senior sealed her commitment to make next level cross country a large part of her college experience.
“It felt right,” Rainwater admitted to her high school coach, John Mackey, a few days earlier. “They have always been in the picture. I was glad I had options, but it kept coming back to them.”
Rainwater’s new coach at the Mena based college had similar sentiments.
“I’ve been watching Faith since we first started this program,” Samantha Shores, the Head Cross Country Coach at UA Rich Mountain, emailed. “I have to say it is almost surreal to be able to have her on my team now.”
Shores and Rainwater crossed paths several times over the years as the Mansfield Lady Tigers typically entered events hosted by the Bucks.
“My favorite moment over the years with Faith was before a race,” Shores continued. “It didn’t matter the event or the season. I would ask her how she was going to do, basically asking what time she thought she would run. She would always answer; ‘I don’t know what time I will run, but I know that I am going to run faster than everyone else.’ That is exactly the kind of fire and commitment that I look for when recruiting a runner to be part of the Bucks XC team.”
Rainwater, by her own admission, wasn’t very good as a seventh grade runner. She was quick to change that perception by pouring on the hard work that summer and offseason training schedules provided.
“You could tell by the first day of summer camp her eighth grade year she was willing to do what it took to be good,” Coach Mackey offered. “Half Pint, that’s what I call her, was a natural and vocal leader. She became the main voice of the team by action and words. She stepped up at a time when we lost some really good runners to graduation. These last two years in particular she has been demonstrating the Tiger Way as a student coach to the younger kids. So, proud that her efforts are paying off with a college scholarship.”
Since moving up to the high school team at the end of her freshman season, Rainwater has earned much attention in the world of long distance racing. She received All-State recognition in both her freshman and junior years. Her sophomore and senior seasons were derailed of similar status by untimely flare ups of plantar fasciitis of the foot. Although she competed in postseason play four consecutive years, two of the four trips were slowed by foot soreness.
“Faith is typically pretty tough for a little girl,” Mackey reflected. “I rely on her quite a bit. She will be tough to replace. I’m glad she gets to move on, but I’m equally glad I have her for indoor and outdoor track season before she goes. She can do much more than just run far. She’s a utility knife in track and field.”
Along with a plethora of individual medals and team plaques, Rainwater also earned the following major individual achievements throughout her high school career. Twice she was named the Mansfield Female Cross Country Runner of the Year. She made the 3A-1 conference or 2A-4 conference All-District team on three occasions. She brought home All-Region plaques four different times, made the Farm Bureau River Valley All-Star squad four times, and was a two time Best of Preps All-Star.
Along with Rainwater, a core group of four additional dedicated seniors allowed Mansfield to reach its highest position in school history at the past two state cross country finals. Twin sister Hope Rainwater along with McKenzie Griffin, Katlynn Moore, and Darby Jones became the sisterhood Faith Rainwater helped galvanize into two consecutive state runner-up team finishes.
Rainwater would readily include junior teammate and close friend Jadelynn Wood, a significant part of that sisterhood. She would also give credit to rising freshmen stars Laney Wood and Trinity Triska who finished 5th and 14th respectively at the 2021 state finals along with fellow freshmen teammates Addison Bowman, Rileigh Parker, Carter Whiley, Aidan Fildes, Azlynn Stover, and Ashley Martin.
Coach Shores raved about the opportunity to have Rainwater join her cast of characters and be a part of a program that has been building since its inception four years ago.
“There is nothing greater for me than being able to provide an opportunity to get an education while continuing in a sport they love,” Shores expressed. “Faith will definitely be an asset to the continuing success of our women’s team.”
The UA Rich Mountain coach continued as she gave an update on her team and the school that joined the University of Arkansas System in 2017.
“In four seasons, we have won the Regional Championship three times and placed runner-up once,” the Buck’s coach celebrated. “Our women are ranked 11th in the Nation. I believe Faith’s attitude and ability will help us to continue to succeed and reach our goal of being in the top 5 nationally. I am super excited to have her here in the Fall.”
The recently rebranded University of Arkansas Rich Mountain history hails from its humble beginnings as Rich Mountain Vo-Tech in 1973 and Rich Mountain Community College since 1983. With over forty years of educational progress, UA Rich Mountain continues its mission to provide educational opportunities and student success by serving areas such as Polk, Montgomery, and Scott counties.