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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Lady Tiger’s XC “Half-Pint” Reaches Full Measure

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Her coach commonly refers to her as “Half-Pint”. It’s a term of endearment the athlete has fondly accepted as a gesture of admiration. Used by the mentor to describe the tiniest Lady Tiger on the Mansfield cross country team, it affectionately brings a full measure of praise to the biggest achiever on the team.

Faith Rainwater, hands down the littlest runner on the 2018 MHS cross country team, has the largest resume on the squad. Just a freshman, the high energy talent just completed a season in which she earned a prestigious trifecta of honors.

Count All-District, All-Region, and a recently earned All-State award as an extraordinary haul for the future of Lady Tiger distance running.

At the Arkansas Activities Association state cross country championships on November 2, Rainwater finished 12th place (23:03.3) out of 118 runners to earn All-State honors. It was the first such distinction awarded a Mansfield native since 2012 when Hannah Holstein won the overall individual state title. 

The highly regarded state award followed All-District and All-Region awards the freshman phenom already pocketed since moving up to the senior high ranks late in the year.

After claiming medal rewards at nearly every stop along the junior high schedule, Rainwater moved up to the senior team on the day of the conference 3A-1West championships. That particular morning the motivated runner ran both the junior and senior high races. She was second and fourth respectively in those championships.

A week later, the ninth grader earned All-Region honors at the Tom Stuthard Top 25 Southwest Regional 5K race in Acorn.

Ranked inside the top 25 among all class 3A runners in the state, Rainwater showed she could do more by finishing in the top twelve at the Hot Springs hosted state finals.

Asked what it was like to appear in her first state championship, the tiny talent was straight forward with this comment.

“It was fun just being there with all my friends and coaches,” stated Rainwater via a text message. “It was exciting to run with some of the best runners in the state.”

The freshman leader credits her friends and coaches as helping her be confident even among the state’s top talents.

“All my friends, coaches, and family were all backing me up,” reflected the young athlete. “They would be proud of me no matter what.”

Rainwater continued. “The people that inspire me the most are my two running buddies McKenzie Griffin and Harleigh Mars and my coach John Mackey. All three of them push me when there’s nothing left to give whether at practice or at a meet.”

“Faith doesn’t need much motivation from me or anyone else,” said Mackey. “She is self motivated and eager to please. She wants to be great, and is willing to do what great great athletes do.”

Speaking of such high credential athletes, the player that Rainwater admires the most is 2018 Mansfield graduate Megan Rose. Rose was a four time high school district champion and four time All-Star. She currently runs for Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and keeps a close watch on her former teammates. 

Within hours of Mansfield’s completion of the state meet, it was Rose that sent proud praise to her cross country little sister.

“Proud of them all,” sent Rose through a text.“Ethan (Chapman) and Faith ran amazing. Good to see so big of a team at state.”

“Megan Rose has made such an impact on my life and running career,” revealed Rainwater. “She showed me cross country is like any other sport. It is a friendly and fun sport that I’m glad to be a part of.”

The next agenda has Rainwater waiting word on whether or not she will be invited to the River Valley All-Stars. The post season meet is the brainchild of Magazine Coach Randy Bryan in which 15 of the top cross country runners around the local area are asked to race one more time.

If invited, Mansfield’s third year runner would have yet another notch to carve on her heavyweight award belt.

“Being All-State in the ninth grade shows me how far I have already gotten,” declared the freshman. “As long as I keep going on the road I am on, I can go even further.”

If that also includes one more race this season at the RV All-Stars, Rainwater can say with humble heart that she has traveled a road very few have run.

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