Mansfield’s new cross country district reads like a who’s who list of contenders. To make matters worse, two former class 4A schools dropped down into the league and a third school is large enough to play 4A football.
The 3A-1 West conference contains big schools Waldron, West Fork, and Elkins in its new configuration. It also has Cedarville, Charleston, Greenland, and Lincoln to complete the district roll call with Mansfield.
At the conference cross country races held at Sodie Davidson Park in Waldron on October 20, Mansfield came away with two runner-up trophies and two fourth place finishes.
The Mansfield junior girls made the strongest push earning 42 points for the second place plaque. They fell to West Fork’s 24 points and their first place production.
The Mansfield junior boys also earned a second place team award. It wasn’t quite as close for first place but highly stressful for second.
West Fork ran away with the top team prize in the junior boy’s division with 17 points. Mansfield accumulated 69 for second. Waldron closed fast with 73 while Elkins came in fourth with 81.
The senior girls saw Elkins land on top with 37 points. West Fork (42), Waldron (67), and Mansfield (75) rounded out the top four scoring teams.
Similar results ensued in the senior men’s competition with the exception of the top two teams switching spots. West Fork took honors with 33 points. Elkins (46), Waldron (48), and Mansfield (97) comprised the top four.
Mansfield freshman Faith Rainwater had a huge day pulling double duty for the Lady Tigers. The highly ranked runner finished second in the 2-mile junior high race. After an approximate 30 minute break, she moved up and ran the senior high 3.1 mile race to finish fourth.
“Faith looked really good,” bragged her coach, John Mackey. “I think the first race just got her warmed up and primed for the longer, senior high competition.”
Rainwater hunted down the leader of the shorter junior high course but couldn’t quite catch West Fork’s top product. Zoe Erickson, the Northern Tiger, clocked in at 14:40.1 while Rainwater, the Red Tiger representative, came across at 14:51.6.
Moments later, Rainwater did the course again running three more loops for the senior high team. Coming around the first mile in eleventh place, the Tiger athlete moved into seventh by the second mile.
It was in the last mile of the 5K race that the smallest competitor in the entire field tracked down a few more to move into fourth place by the finish. Her mark was her best 5K time of the year at 23:16.3
“Since she would only be running one race at regionals, I asked Faith if she could better her 5K time,” quipped Mackey. “She said yes, but she might need a longer warmup. What an incredible answer for a girl that just ran 5 miles of racing in one morning.”
Four total Mansfield female freshmen doubled up their race schedule at the conference showdown. Shelby Cole, McKenzie Griffin, and Hope Rainwater were the other three.
“They each did really well considering the workload,” smiled the coach. “In fact, all four were our top four scorers.”
Jessica George, the senior girls number one runner for the past several meets, came in as the group’s fifth place scorer. George was 20th overall at 26:55. Griffin was 16th at 26:16, Cole was 17th at 26:17, and Hope Rainwater was 18th at 26:19.
“McKenzie (Griffin) is going to have a really good senior high career,” stated Mackey. “She actually runs better when the race is longer. All the freshmen are going to be good. They like it, and work at it.”
The younger Lady Tigers were supported by a couple of eighth graders in the first race. Olivia Bouse (9th) and Jadelynn Wood (13th) rounded out the Mansfield junior high scoring five. The Rainwater twins, Faith (2nd) and Hope (12th), along with Cole (6th) produced the runner-up junior district trophy.
Griffin and Raine Hecox, just a seventh grader, were the first two blockers for the junior squad.
Ethan Chapman off the Mansfield junior boys roster landed among the top ten district finalists as the sixth best runner. The freshman also attempted to run the longer senior race put was pulled because of soreness in his knee.
Freshmen Mikeal Harrison (11th) who was one place shy of All-District status in the junior high ranks moved up and finished 15th in the senior high men’s 5K. He was joined by John Branche (31st) and Zac Desormeaux (32nd) who also doubled up their races on the day.
Artem Zirka was the fourteenth runner to cross in the senior high men’s race. The Mansfield runner by way of the Ukraine was four place away from All-District credentials.
Teammate Renden Emery was third on the Tiger men’s team. He squeaked into the top 20 as the 20th place finisher. He ran 22 minutes even along the rain soaked, mud slick Waldron course.