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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hometown Hero Runs in for a Hello


Former Lady Tiger distance runner, Hannah Holstein, breaks from her own training routine to wish the Mansfield junior girls well before their first race of the 2018 season.
It was 7:30 AM as the Mansfield school bus drove down Massard Road in Fort Smith. The long yellow dog was less than five minutes from its destination at Ben Geren Park. Inside the bus was a load of junior and senior high kids alert and anxious for their first cross country competition of the year.
“Look over there,” exclaimed John Mackey, Mansfield’s current head coach. “There’s your 2012 state champion. That’s Hannah! She’s still running.”
Mackey was pointing out the window of the school bus towards one of his former star pupils. Mansfield High School Lady Tiger, UA Fort Smith Lion, and University of Central Arkansas Bear alum, Hannah Holstein, was running the trails of Chaffee Crossing.
“That’s how you become a champion,” proclaimed Mackey as he proceeded to fire up his troops before the morning races. “Hannah’s always running. She just graduated college with a masters degree, and running paid for it. You want to be a champion? Be like her.”
Hannah Holstein graduated from Mansfield in the spring of 2013. That previous fall in November of 2012, the ultra-dedicated, spit fire runner rocked the infield of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs to win the class 3A state individual cross country championship.
Recently retired teacher, Bill Frye, was the head cross country coach back then. Mackey was an assistant distance coach at the time, and Holstein’s head track coach.
“Hannah really worked at it,” remembered Mackey as he reflected back on Holstein’s cross country and track career in high school. “Most people want to win, but aren’t willing to do what it takes. Hannah was willing. She wanted to be the best, and did something about it. She was incredibly disciplined.”
Holstein was out this particular morning because she’s in training to run a half marathon in November. Although her collegiate athletic career ended in May as she completed a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics at UCA, her desire to run still remains.
After an outstanding high school running career, Holstein signed to run cross country for UA Fort Smith. Two years later she transferred to the University of Central Arkansas, a NCAA Division 1 school, to continue her education and athletic prowess.
Now, as an employee of Sparks Regional Hospital, Holstein is putting her college education to use and spending her free time doing what she has always done best; run.
Mackey sent Holstein a message after he parked the bus for the Fort Smith Invitational. He had a group of nearly 30 kids eager to participate in the four race schedule that morning, and he wanted to know if she would come by and say hello.
“I’m getting some water and heading over,” was the replay from Holstein as she completed her 10 mile morning jog.
“So good to see you. How many you got running? Tell me about your team,” rapid fired Holstein as she found Mackey and the gang at camp along the fringe of the Ben Geren course.
“Let me introduce you to some of our kids,” responded Mackey as he knew some of the younger runners in particular were in awe of the famous Lady Tiger graduate.
It didn’t take long for Holstein and some of the current Tiger troops to pose for a picture after hellos were exchanged.
“It was such a thrill having Hannah interrupt her own training just to come by and say hi to the kids,” spoke the coach. “She’s a real success story that our kids can look too. She once brought her Lion teammates to help time at our track meet. She’s always willing to come speak to our kids about nutrition and training tips.”
When asked before the start of the junior girls’ 2 mile race that morning, Holstein was quick to give a few pointers.
“Stay to the inside on the curves,” advised the former state champion. “Don’t get boxed in, and stride out on the downhills.”
For now, Mansfield’s hometown hero is staying close to the area and willing to give advice. As Mackey confessed, Holstein helped as he mentored 2018 MHS graduate, Megan Rose, as she finished her high school career and now runs for Southeastern Oklahoma State.
Holstein’s immediate future includes qualifying for the New York half marathon. Don’t be surprised if a few extra Tiger fans aren’t in her corner, cheering for the girl that said hello.

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