For years legendary Mansfield coach, Bill Frye, turned out athletes faster than blades of grass shooting out from underneath his lawn mower. With countless championships in basketball, baseball, and cross country, Frye was a large influence on generations of players.
Sadly, the last of a long line of players Coach Frye had an opportunity to impact is now a senior.
Alyssa Berry, a senior on the Mansfield cross country team, is in her sixth year of long distance racing. Four seasons ago she was on the junior high team that competed in Frye’s final campaign as head coach before he retired.
“I remember Coach Frye would give you a high five you when you ran well at a race,” laughed Berry as she thought back to her early years of running. “His state championship ring would hurt your hand.”
Berry continued to reflect back to those early days.
“I also remember beating Eden (Jones) and Megan (Rose) one time,” expressed the senior. “It was at Lamar or someplace like that where we don’t run anymore. He (Frye) had a smile on his face and was really proud of me.
Berry is now under the tutelage of John Mackey. He was an assistant to Frye for years and has always been the senior’s track coach.
“Alyssa is our veteran,” explained Mackey. “She is the last of her generation. She is our only current senior to start as a seventh grader and finish the sport through to her final year. For that alone, she deserves much credit.”
When asked what it’s like to be the most experienced runner on the team, Berry had this to say.
“I like the fact I still get to run,” stated Berry. “I like to meet all the new cross country runners and experience the season and the races together.”
Back in September, Berry ran her last race at the Mansfield home meet. Coincidentally, it’s the same course that Frye and Acorn Coach Keith Willsey helped design back in 2004.
“It was a little sad running on our course for the last time,” sighed Berry. “I do think it was cool that several of the teachers worked the meet. They even told me good job.”
If Mansfield’s home course put Berry in a melancholy mood, then Greenwood’s Bell Park put her in a sour mood.
“It’s no thrill, that hill,” emphasized the veteran runner. “It’s my worst course. I like Ben Geren. It’s smooth, flat, and not such a tough course.”
Regardless where the Tigers run, Berry stated that she will come back and watch her younger teammates after she graduates. Specifically, she noted freshman Faith Rainwater as the one she would like to see again and again.
“Faith works really hard,” admired the senior. “She really wants it. She wants to be like Megan (Rose).”
The Megan that Berry referred to is Megan Rose. The former teammate, a 2018 MHS graduate, is currently a freshman runner for Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Rainwater will move up from the Lady Tiger junior high squad to Berry’s senior high team once the junior high district championships are over.
Berry doesn’t exactly call it her team despite the fact she is the oldest and most tenured player on the senior high squad. She emphatically likes to call it everyone’s team.
“I consider our team as everyone’s team,” explained Berry. “Everyone shares the load. We do it together.”
According to the current Mansfield coach, it’s Berry’s mentality as it relates to community rather than self that sets her apart from most.
“Alyssa enjoys the group spotlight more than she does the individual,” observed Mackey. “She prefers strength in numbers and allows her teammates to join in the decision making. She’s not caught up in the stereotypical seniority thing.”
Berry closes her cross country career with two championship races left. The Southwest Regional in Acorn on October 24, and the State Finals in Hot Springs on November 2.
With that ending, the last branch of the Frye racing tree falls.
“It will be sad to see Alyssa go,” stated Mackey. “She’s been a productive player and a good teammate. I will certainly miss her. With her graduation from the program, there will also be no more cross country athletes left on the roster to share Coach Frye stories.”