Mansfield long distance runners found the Tom Stuthard Top 25 Southwest Regional cross country meet a place for success. Not only did their two girl teams take home hardware, more personal records were once again established.
The Wednesday, October 23 meet at Mena’s Lion Club course saw top tier teams from across the region battle across division lines. Classes 1A through 4A schools were combined for a final tuneup before conference races start next week.
Mansfield’s tiniest Tiger, Trinity Triska, roared the loudest with the overall individual championship in the junior girls division. The seventh grader blasted off the starting line and led wire to wire for the 1.5 mile win. Her victory took 10:59.1 and was her fastest paced race this season.
“Trinity has a chance to be something special,” smiled coach John Mackey of Mansfield. “She has that will to win coupled with the skill to get it done. She’s a good kid, a fantastic student, and talented athlete. Very proud of her.”
Only 3.3 seconds behind the number one runner was fellow Mansfield seventh grader Laney Wood. Nearly step for step with her training partner, Wood pushed the pace for a Lady Tiger sweep of the top two medals.
“Laney has been one of our top junior girls all season,” stated Mackey. “She’s a vocal leader wired for action. Her skill set is made for competition.”
Despite the gold and silver placings, Mansfield’s young team fell five points shy of the Regional Championship. Nashville took that honor with 45 points. Support for the Lady Tiger scoring came with finishes at 18th, 19th, and 24th place.
Laney’s sister Jadelynn Wood seemed weighted down by a recent bout of sickness. Her pace fell below her usual standard to place 18th. Alyssa James picked her game up for the second week in a row to finish 19th. It earned her a second consecutive medal. Meghan Emery grabbed her first charm of the season after falling one spot short last week. She was 24th.
Trinity Triska, Laney Wood, Jadelynn Wood, Alyssa James, and Meghan Emery all made Junior High All-Region for their finish inside the Tom Stuthard Top 25.
“Nashville was the winner,” reviewed Mansfield’s head coach about the results of the day’s first race. “They have a really strong tradition in track and cross country. If we were gonna get beat, at least it came from a bigger 4A school with proud history.”
The Mansfield senior girls also found their way to the Regional Runner-up plaque. Behind another solid performance by sophomore McKenzie Griffin the Lady Tigers took second to state ranked Waldron.
Griffin once again used a strategy of starting out fast to record a seventh place 5K time of 24:02.6. She was within striking distance of the top three runners after the first loop but dropped somewhat after the inclines along the Lion’s den.
Mansfield was without the services of it’s most decorated runner Faith Rainwater. The 2018 All-State athlete strained the arch in her foot at Van Buren last week and was held out to heal before Monday’s 3A-1 West Conference Meet in Elkins.
“McKenzie and Faith usually go out together,” explained their coach. “I was really proud of McKenzie for pushing the right pace without the benefit of a pack run partner. She is really working for a break out year.”
Darby Jones moved into the Lady Tiger top two with a new personal record. Her mark of 24:43.6 placed her in 12th position overall and beat her previous best 5K performance by 27.79 seconds.
“Darby has to be our most improved player,” enlightened Mackey. “Her confidence grows daily.”
Senior Lennon Woods ran her best race of the season. She dropped her time to 25:58.5 for 19th place. Katlynn Moore earned her first medal at 23rd place.
Woods, Moore, Jones, and Griffin each earned All-Region honors for landing inside the Tom Stuthard Top 25.
The Mansfield men did not qualify for team awards. With injury and attrition, the Tigers were left without the necessary five person squad. Of the four that did run, three set personal record times.
Ethan Chapman, the team’s top Tiger for the second consecutive season, peeled back his 5K time to 19:03.1 for a new PR. It placed him 11th overall against some highly ranked runners including the defending class 2A state champion.
As his coach explained, “Early in the year, Ethan ran a 3 mile loop at Caddo Hills in 17:08.91. He was only 54 seconds above that with his full 3.1 mile race at Mena. That’s knocking on the door to something special.”
Renden Emery and Ashton Hinkle both eclipsed their previous best as well. Emery, a junior, shaved 3 seconds off his time for a 26th place finish at 20:30.3. Hinkle, just a freshman, dropped his fastest mark another 27 seconds. He was 33rd at 21:12.1.
John Branche rounded out the Mansfield men with a time of 21:36.0. He was 40th overall.
Shelby Cole scored among the senior Lady Tigers top five. Holly Owen was the lone displacer.
Cassidy Carlton, Lita Hecox, Magean Newman, Eden Mounts, Addie Bowman, Aiden Fildes, Azlynn Nelson, and Maylei Rogers all participated for the Mansfield junior high.