The Arkansas Activities Association’s mandatory two week athletic dead period ended on Saturday, July 6. Two days later members of the Mansfield High School cross country and track teams began gathering for their annual pre-season summer runs.
For the past several years AAA rules have put a moratorium on all high school athletic activities from the last week of June through the Fourth of July weekend. As that mandatory layoff ends, it typically signals the beginning of team training sessions for Mansfield long distance runners.
Such was the case once again on Monday, July 8. Tiger runners from grades seventh through twelfth began collecting at nearby City Lake Park for nightly group workouts.
“This has become a real tradition for our program,” stated Mansfield coach John Mackey. “For the majority of our kids, they know nothing different. The ones that really want to excel come out every year at this time.”
The Tigers have had individual training schedules since school let out in May. As the first full week of July arrives, the team gathers for group sessions.
“Mentality, it’s tough to get up on your own and go run,” explained the coach. “In a group setting, it becomes much easier. Running in a pack pushes you a little more. It’s positive peer pressure to not fall behind.”
The Tiger distance runners meet weekly on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights at the Mansfield City Lake Park at 7:30 PM. They will continue the nightly sessions for a month. At the conclusion of the summer training period the group will go to a local water park to enjoy a cookout and team bonding time.
“Those that meet expectations go on the reward trip,” announced Mackey. “It’s a real family atmosphere. We learn a lot about being teammates and make connections beyond the competition circuit.”
So far, the evening sessions have been averaging about 24 athletes per night. Individuals run anywhere between a half mile for beginners up to five miles for the more experienced players.
The coach encourages any Mansfield track athlete, boy or girl, that hasn’t joined in the summer training sessions to do so. The group meets near the park’s smaller pavilion each scheduled night for instructions, warmups, and individualize workouts based upon level.
“We’d like to see more of the younger kids entering seventh grade to come out,” observed the coach. “Especially on the boys side, it’s a great way to get in shape for football, basketball, and obviously cross country and track. Mansfield encourages kids to play multiple sports. We’ve had some very successful players juggle such things as volleyball, cross country, and cheerleading at the same time.”