So far, so good for Mansfield High School’s most productive cross country team. With senior McKenzie Griffin’s commitment to the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, the number of Lady Tiger college signees for next season has reached three.
Like her classmates before her, Griffin took her turn under the spotlight in a signing ceremony on the campus of MHS. This February 23rd gathering gave yet another Lady Tiger off the 2021 Mansfield cross country team her moment to shine.
Griffin, a highly skilled distance runner for Mansfield over the past several seasons, made it official with her letter of intent to attend the University of the Ozarks. Before a crowd of teammates, close family and friends, the high school senior made the right decision for herself.
“The University of the Ozarks watched me at the state meet,” Griffin shared with her high school coach. “That meant alot to me.”
U. of O. is a small division III school nestled in nearby Clarksville.
Griffin and the majority of her high school teammates actually ran on the Eagle’s home course when they were junior high athletes.
“We used to go over to Clarksville and run a few seasons ago,” said John Mackey, the head coach at Mansfield. “They changed their meet date where it was in conflict with our home meet, so we stopped going. I’m glad the Eagles still found McKenzie on the scouting reports.”
Griffin has been a top 5 runner for the Tigers throughout her career. Multiple times she has earned All-District, All-Region, and All-Star awards.
As a sophomore, Griffin was the only Mansfield racer that reached All-District status. That was the year the Tigers were still in class 3A and grouped into one of the best conferences in the state. It was that 3A-2 conference that had five of the top 10 teams in the state. The league produced the state champions, three more highly ranked opponents, and Mansfield at number 10.
According to her high school coach, it was that sophomore season that Mansfield’s Griffin started believing a bit more in herself.
“Somewhere along the Van Buren race two years ago, McKenzie took over as the number one runner that season,” Mackey remembered. “She started really coming on and really worked at her opening mile. She produced her best state time that season and was the Player of the Year for our sport.”
These past two seasons Griffin’s teammates saw their own potential and began to chase. Together, Griffin and company flourished and found solid footing in their newly aligned class 2A setting.
Add Griffin’s steady play with fellow signees Faith Rainwater (Rich Mountain) and Darby Jones (Ouachita Baptist) into the mix; Mansfield pushed hard for the state championship in cross country. The crew fell just shy of that goal by taking the runner-up prize the last two seasons.
“It’s been a good run,” Mackey allowed. “Mansfield was blessed with some talented players. I give credit to McKenzie for getting her classmates interested in running. I remember her as a seventh grader. She really wanted to be a part of the program and convinced her classmates to do the same.”