Pictured: Mansfield’s senior girls track team wins the 2A Region 4 District Track and Field Championships on April 27 at home
In regard to district track championships, Mansfield’s senior girls have had over a decade of dominance. Recently, the group was coming off a three-year pause from its last title defense. On April 27 in front of their home crowd, the pause was over and the champs were champions once more.
The Lady Tigers found the depth to run away with it’s newest conference championship. As a bonus, the Mansfield men came together to take second place at those same district finals.
From 2006 to 2017, the MHS women won twelve consecutive conference titles in track and field. An unexpected fall in the last race of the 2018 district championships left Mansfield two points shy of their 13th consecutive conference win. A switch to a different district in 2019 followed by the Covid related shutdown of the 2020 season left the Lady Tigers once again winless in conference championships until this past week.
The Tigers’ Tuesday night lineup saw 14 of 19 Lady Tigers have All-District performances in pursuit of the title. By finishing first or second in their specific event, the All-District performers also advanced to the state round scheduled to begin on May 5 in Gurdon.
Along with top placements in 15 of 18 events, Mansfield also produced multiple places in all events. The results propelled the Mansfield women to 315 total points for the 2A Region 4 crown.
Acorn put up a fight stealing 9 victories in individual races and a couple of field events. The blue and gold Tigers could not, however, match the depth of the home town red and white Tigers. The best they could muster was 185 points for the second-place plaque.
Reverse fortunes followed in the men’s division as Acorn took top honors with Mansfield finishing second in the team standings.
Acorn’s men totaled 260 points through a dominating performance in the sprints and distance races. Mansfield loaded up in the throws and pole vault along with solid times in the races to accumulate 129 points for the runner-up trophy.
Mansfield’s senior girls showed athleticism in all areas as the team qualified to state in all events except the 100m dash, 400m dash, and 1600m run.
State contenders Brooke Wright and Skylynn Harris won the shot and discus respectively. Truth be known, the pair won their teammate’s specialty event as the two sat out their primary event in hopes of qualifying another Mansfield player to state.
“It was a strategy both girls accepted,” said Mansfield coach John Mackey “We had several conversations about how to get the most competitive team to state. They each agreed it was worth a try.”
Wright had already pre-qualified to state in the discus with a career-high 101’ 3” achieved in Van Buren. Harris already punched her ticket to Gurdon with a 32’ 3” push of the shot put during a regular-season home meet.
Dual sport athlete Natalie Allison showed out in her first full meet of the season for Mansfield. Obligated to softball for most of the season as well as dealing with some back issues discovered late in the basketball season, Allison made the most of her district schedule.
The sophomore pointed in five events and qualified to state in three. Those three All-District marks came from a win in the 4x200m relay and a pair of seconds in the high jump and triple jump.
“Natalie has the skills to be a fantastic track athlete,” noted Mackey. “She is so valuable to all sports here at our school. We (the track team) just don’t get to see her as much as we would like. You saw a terrific performance today. The way Natalie started, it looked like a highpoint caliber performance. She did most of that on raw natural ability.”
Fellow sophomore Madelen Jones, one of three Lady Tigers to complete a full slate of events, was actually the team’s leading scorer. Behind four third place marks, an individual second place, and a relay win, Jones tallied 34.5 points.
Junior Faith Rainwater was close behind with 33 points for the hometown Tigers. Rainwater qualified to state in five of her six events. The All-State cross country runner won the pole vault, 4x800m relay, 4x100m relay, and had two second-place distance races.
Senior Makayla Strutton added 30 points to the cause. She won both hurdle races with two more personal records.
In the 100m hurdles, Strutton led a trio of Tigers for a medal sweep with her league-leading 17.22 finish. She also led another one-two-three finish in the 300m hurdles with a career-best time of 52.31.
“Makayla has really been pushing hard these past few weeks,” smiled her coach. “Each week she has found a way to improve among some real challengers. Most of those challenges come from her own backyard. Danielle (Lillie) and Madelen are right there too in the 100m hurdles.”
For the Tiger men, Bri Sanderson continued his stronghold on the shot and discus rings. The senior has had historic marks throughout the regular season and punctuated that with two individual conference wins.
Sanderson threw 42’ 5” in the shot put for the gold medal. He also claimed gold in the discus with a 144’ 10” marking.
Sanderson’s nearest challenger was teammate Shawn Brown. Brown tossed in a 39’ 6” shot put landing for the silver medal. He also whirled the discus 106’ 2” for another silver reward.
With the powerful one-two combination in throws, Mansfield’s men put in an early scare towards the visiting Acorn team.
Senior Victor Steffen, a late entry into the 110m hurdles, perpetuated that scare tactic with a first-place time over the high hurdles. His finish line crossing came in at 20.03 seconds.
With the win, Steffen advanced to state along with Sanderson and Brown. The Tiger’s leading scorer also moved beyond districts by taking second in the 300m hurdles (48.75) and sharing a win in the 4x200m cooperative.
John Branche, Tommy Phang, and Tyler Escalante joined Steffen in that 2 lap relay. The four boys rounded the course in 1:41.02 for the win.
Phang also qualified to state in the 200m dash. The sophomore went 24.23 in the half lap individual race. He was second place overall.
Escalante followed suit in the 400m dash. The junior went 55.71 to take silver and advance beyond the district.
Mansfield dominated the pole vault by going first and second in both women’s and men’s divisions. Along with Rainwater’s win (7’ 0”) for the girls, Ryan Hayslip took the boy’s vertical jump at a new personal record of 11’ 0”.
Pole vault coach Josh Bryan also produced runner-ups Haylee Helms (7’ 0”) for the girls and Peyton Martin (10’ 6”) for the men.
For additional points, first time jumper John Branche went 7’ 0” for fourth place from the Tiger Vault Club.
Mansfield’s girls won every relay race over the course of the night. Each of the four times were season bests.
Hope Rainwater, Jadelynn Wood, Darby Jones, and Faith Rainwater went 11:54.05 in the 4x800m grouping. Helms, Shelby Cole, Allison, and Wood went 2:03.46 in the 4x200m race.
Faith Rainwater, Jones, Strutton, and Danielle Lillie went 54.72 in the 4x100m sprint. Harleigh Mars, Lillie, Strutton, and Wood highlighted the 4x400m relay with a 4:41.95 victory in the last race.
All eleven Lady Tigers entered in the relays advanced to state and qualified for All-District honors.
Mars also earned those same two levels of distinction with a second-place finish in the 300m hurdles. LIkewise, Darby Jones made the marks through second-place ties in both the 800m runs and 3200m runs. Madelen Jones took the accolades with a pre-qualifying time in the 100m hurdles (17.48) and a second-place long jump measurement.
Sarah Fisher snuck into state with a silver medal in the 200m dash. The junior also pointed in both the shot put and discus.
Katlynn Moore, Alyssa James, Seven Sanderson, Alayna Turner, and Raine Hecox all scored for Mansfield with top eight placements in their individual events.
Ethan Streets competed in the men’s 400m dash at district for the Tigers. He will be elevated to an alternate on the men’s 4x200m relay card as that squad approaches state.