Mansfield High School took the reigns of the Farm Bureau River Valley All-Star Cross Country Meet. The invitations were sent and accepted. The races were run. The results tabulated. And, the athletes reaped all the awards.
The day that honored these decorated athletes was Saturday, November 16. On a cool crisp morning along the perimeter of Mansfield’s senior high campus, some of the best endurance runners from across the local region gathered for one more glorious race of the 2019 cross country season.
Twenty-five class 1A-4A schools scattered from across 12 different Arkansas counties were included in the search for the top 5K racers. From that pool of players, an initial list of 40 athletes (20 women and 20 men) were asked to participate. In case of conflicts with the Arkansas-Oklahoma All-Star Meet or local basketball obligations, another 40 names were submitted as possible substitutes.
Off the initial list of All-Star invites, 65% of the players made arrangements to attend. The remaining players that filled the rosters were elevated in ranked numerical order according to best 5K times throughout the season. The results were a very competitive set of two races with nearly 40 high profile distance runners.
The high level of competition was never more apparent than the results of the men’s race. Logan Myers of Mena strained into first place by a minuscule one second difference ahead of Max Linares of Subiaco.
Myers’ winning time was 17:56.4. Linares second place mark was 17:57.4. The next five runners all came under 19 minutes for the 3.1 mile equivalent course work.
“One of our all-stars confessed to me that it was really intimidating to have such high caliber athletes in one setting,” said Mansfield Tiger coach John Mackey. “There weren’t many runners entered, but they were all so very good. Just being in the lineup was quite an honor.”
The top ten finishers in the men’s race all completed the two loop course in 19 minutes and some change. Further proof, this event carried some of the best talent in the small school rankings.
“It’s a real credit to the work ethic of these local runners,” explained Mackey. “Not to many years ago, only a handful of the small school male runners broke 19 minutes. Now, it takes being under 18 minutes to reach this new level of success.”
On the women’s side, Waldron’s Maria Grano continued her assault of the trophy stand. The freshman sensation won the first race of the morning with an outstanding time of 21:17.3. That easily shed her closest competition, Maggie Gregory of Pottsville, by 1 minute 49 seconds.
Grano and seven of her Waldron Bulldog teammates all made the All-Star race fresh off their state championship run a week earlier in Hot Springs.
Mansfield’s female runners earned the second highest amount of roster spots on the All-Star list compared to their Scott County neighbor. The Lady Tigers had two first round invites in McKenzie Griffin and Faith Rainwater. They landed three more from high positions off the alternates list. Those included Darby Jones, Jadelynn Wood, and Katlynn Moore.
Griffin, at number ten, found her way to the medal stand with a time of 24:20.2. For the last month of the season, she has been the Tiger’s top runner.
Ozark’s Gillian Shultz was third at 23:17.0. Constance Richmond of Waldron (4), Ryleigh Anshutz of Waldron (5), Lindsey Ward of Paris (6), Paige Childers of Mulberry (7), Kentucky Spence of Waldron (8), and Lalei Townsend of Mulberry (9) completed the top ten medalists.
Ethan Chapman of Mansfield came into the men’s all-star race ranked as the number 16th overall small school runner. Unfortunately, the Tiger’s top product was unable to finish the race due to an undisclosed ailment during the early stages of the race.
Austin Hill of Booneville (3), Baltazr Garcia of Dardanelle (4), AJ Post of Ozark (5), Baldy Villareal of Waldron (6), Daniel Sanderson of Clarksville (7), Skylar Wrinkle of Dardanelle (8), Issac Tedder of Acorn (9), and Jacob Bristol of Subiaco (10) completed the top ten men finishers.
All the athletes were issued souvenir uniform tops, team medals, and lunch. The top ten finishers were also awarded additional race medals. The overall winners of each gender race received a statuette.
Meet director John Mackey had this to say about Saturday’s meet. “I’d like to thank Roger Thompson and Shane Medford, a couple of our local Farm Bureau Insurance agents, for affording us the opportunity to host to this event. I also want to thank all the volunteers that made this event special for the athletes. You all did amazing in my unexpected absence. Thank you.”