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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Mansfield Athletes Of 2024 Are College Bound And Ready For More

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Statistics show that only about 7% of high school athletes get a shot at playing college sports. Most of those athletes tend to come from larger schools while the percentage of smaller school athletes is likely much, much smaller. So, when Mansfield had seven athlete’s signing to play in college, it became kind of a big deal. From the time they moved up as freshmen to their final year donning Red and White, the seven 2024 Tigers and Lady Tigers have combined for a whole slew of State Championships, Regional Championships, District Championships, and Conference Championships. If you couple those team awards with a plethora of individual accolades each of these student athletes achieved in each and every sport available in the Mansfield School District, you have one heck of a list. These student athletes put in countless hours of hard work in the classroom as well as field/court to acquire scholarships to seven different colleges in five different sports.

Alyson Edwards has been a name that has struck fear into the Lady Tigers opponents ever since little league. With her well rounded athleticism coupled with her sports intellect, Edwards could have gone to college in just about any sport she wanted. Alyson has been an All-State, All-District, All-Conference, and All-Star athlete in volleyball, basketball, and softball almost each year she has played. After “pitching” around her options, Edwards chose to sign with the University of Nebraska Omaha to play softball. Even though Edwards stats for her senior season continue to grow as the Lady Tigers enter the State Tournament, the end result will likely land her as one of the best pitchers Arkansas has ever seen. All of the years of practicing softball in the old gym with her parents after basketball practices paid off in a big way as she will be transforming from a Lady Tiger to a Lady Maverick.

Working hard with a smile is something you don’t see much of in high school athletics. When it is spotted though, it’s usually Kynslee Ward with her ear-to-ear grin. Like Edwards, Ward has been an all-around athlete for the Lady Tigers program in basketball, volleyball, and softball. Kynslee’s extreme work ethic led to her averaging 15.6 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 3 assists per game, and 5 steals per game in her senior basketball season. Kynslee broke two school records with 164 steals and 89 made threes this season as well. It was those statistics coupled with her visible love for the game that caught the eye of Crowley’s Ridge College, and the rest is not history but the future, as Ward signed with the Lady Pioneers shortly after the Lady Tigers basketball season ended. Kynslee will now be smiling big while she steals the show over in Eastern Arkansas.

If there was a face of “never give up”, it would be that of Raine Hecox. Hecox dabbled in just about every sport Mansfield has to offer in her career (even football). While she played the role of Robin to the Batmen on her team’s most of the time over the years, she made sure she was the best Robin she could be to help the Lady Tigers succeed. As a two-time State Champion in Indoor Track, State All-Star, District Champion, and State Runner-Up in Outdoor Track along with medaling in multiple individual meets, Hecox’s determination to make herself and her teammates successful drew the attention of the University of the Ozarks for nearly two years. Even while competing with an injury for most of her senior season, Hecox’s selflessness and determination landed her a spot on the Eagles Cross Country and Track roster.

Volleyball is a staple of women’s sports in Mansfield. With four consecutive State, Regional, District, and Conference Championships it would be hard to think that there wouldn’t be any colleges kicking down the door to have a shot at one of the Lady Tigers. Well, there wasn’t one in Mansfield’s talented group to be found…there were two. Kinley Vanmeter moved to the Mansfield school district as a sophomore and immediately made an impact in volleyball. Overall, Vanmeter has two State, Conference, and District Championships with the Lady Tigers. In her senior season, Vanmeter racked up All-Conference, All-State Honorable Mention, and All-Star Nominee accolades while leading the team in digs with 334. With stats like that, Lyon College decided to snatch up this Lady Tiger for themselves and just like that, Kinley Vanmeter became a Lady Lion. Every team has to have an “ace” up their sleeve and for Mansfield volleyball, that was none other than Cole Smith. Smith was a part of all four of Mansfield’s consecutive State Championship teams and made it her mission to give all she could to the Lady Tigers. In her senior season, Smith was awarded All-Conference, All-State Honorable Mention, All-State Tournament Team, All-Star Nominee, and led the team in aces with 100. Cole was able to complete her mission of playing at the next level by signing with the Mission University Lady Patriots to play volleyball.

While it is the girls’ sports in Mansfield that tends to get all of the attention, there has been one sport that has held the light for the Tigers consistently. It has been the baseball program that has pulled most of the weight of the boys’ sports for the past few years and a couple of athletes have been key increments in the program’s success, Peyton Martin and Jaden Wolfe. Peyton has been a multisport superstar for the Tigers since his elementary years. Peyton has held multiple individual accolades in football, basketball, track and baseball making him one of the most valuable players in the school’s history. Martin helped the Tigers 2024 baseball run to the State Tournament by averaging .468 when swinging the bat. The hard work and determination of Martin brought the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain to his doorstep with a Bucks scholarship in hand. Jaden Wolfe proved to be a dual threat for the diamond Tigers both on the mound and at the plate. Jaden’s baseball IQ and skillset was so impressive that National Park College snatched him up even before the season started. Wolfe’s 3.3 ERA from the pitching mound laid waste to opponent’s batters throughout the 2024 season while he solidified a .277 batting average on the year.

With a class of 52 Tigers and Lady Tigers graduating in just a few days, 13.4% will move on to play college sports. That places Mansfield as nearly doubling the national average of next level players. This group has proven that no matter what school you go to, big or small, hard work and persistence will always pay off. While the names Alyson Edwards, Kynslee Ward, Raine Hecox, Kinley Vanmeter, Cole Smith, Peyton Martin, and Jaden Wolfe will now be called out in different areas of the state and country, their names will forever be etched in the Mansfield Tigers and Lady Tigers lore for generations to come. Congratulations to all and go Mavericks, Pioneers, Eagles, Lions, Patriots, Bucks, and Nighthawks!!!

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