According to a weather bug app, the heat index was 102 degrees Fahrenheit when the starting bell rang. As the four divisional races fired off in Acorn on September 18, it was obvious that the heat effected the times of local cross country runners.
Mansfield was not immune to the steam and stick of the hot and humid conditions that overwhelmed the Tom Stuthard Invitational. Neither were most of the dozen or so schools in attendance.
DeQueen, a class 5A school from Sevier County, may have adapted the best to the unfriendly conditions. As the largest sized school in attendance, they nearly ran the table by winning all but the junior boys team title.
Mansfield’s junior girls kept their streak of plaque worthy performances intact. For the third time in three tries this season, the Lady Tiger prep squad hauled home a trophy. This one was another runner-up plaque.
Top scorers for the Lady Tiger youngsters included Faith Rainwater, McKenzie Griffin, Shelby Cole, Jadelynn Wood, and Olivia Bouse.
Rainwater carried most of the load with a 10:49.7 sixth place finish. Griffin was some 30 seconds back at 11:20.2 for 14th place.
Cole, Wood, and Bouse rounded out the team’s scoring five with 16, 17, and 28 points off their placements.
Hope Rainwater and Raine Hecox were the primary blockers for Mansfield. The freshmen and seventh grader respectively finished in 31st and 35th place in a race that saw 83 runners complete the 1.5 mile course.
The Tiger junior boys gave a solid account of themselves. The group of seven athletes accumulated a point value worthy of fourth place in the overall team standings.
As previous meets have gone, the pecking order for the Tiger junior team went Ethan Chapman, Steven Perez, and Mikeal Harrison as the top three.
Tommy Phang, and John Branche gave the group its final tally. Ashton Hinkle and Logan Yoss were the blockers.
Chapman went 9:18.5 for 10th place. Perez went 9:22.6 for 12th place. Both freshmen players received medals for their efforts.
Harrison came on strong near the end but fell three places short of a top 20 medal.
“Mikeal has been coming along,” said Mansfield coach John Mackey. “He got a late start by not attending summer sessions. He’s been having to play catchup and do some extra work on his own. The tools are there. He’s just needs to swing the axe a little bit more to be top ten or twenty.”
The MHS team most effected by the heat seemed to be the senior girls. Under the unusual set of conditions, Mansfield only had one player break the 30 minute barrier over the 3.1 mile race.
Jessica George, an experienced runner of the junior class, completed the two loop course as the Lady Tiger’s number one placer. Her time was 29:31.1 for 26th place.
Alyssa Berry, the team’s traditional number one, fell behind struggling to shake the heat. She dropped back to 27th place with an uncharacteristic 30:38.4 accumulated time.
Anina Reutter, Josefin Lofving, and Addison Goetz completed the five person scoring for Mansfield. Their team total placed fourth in the meet standings.
The Tiger men, however, seemed to flourish in the swelter of the day. Both Artem Zirka and Renden Emery posted their best 5k times of the early season. Zirka went 22:18.2 for 24th place while Emery went 23:42.3 for 34th place.
“Artem is starting to get a real feel for the game,” commented Mackey. “He has been counting miles and putting in the extra work on weekends to get to a level two performer. Renden is progressing as well. The two have been pushing each other in practice.”
Sara Willadsen and Janna Coplin completed the Mansfield senior high roster at Acorn. Harleigh Mars, Alyssa James, Darby Jones, Heidi Ebarb, Lita Hecox, and Eden Mounts gave the Mansfield junior roster its full complement.