Two weeks into their summer team sessions, Mansfield cross country runners have found mostly moderate temperatures for training. According to their coach, that all changed by the end of last week.
“We’ve had great cloud coverage almost every night,” John Mackey, Mansfield’s head coach explained. “Last Thursday was the first night that the temperature really got extreme. Afternoon temperatures reached well over 100 degrees. Fortunately, it was a little less hot by run time but not much.”
The Arkansas Activities Association mandatory dead period ended July 7. Just after that members of the Mansfield long distance team began meeting up for their annual summer running sessions. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays Tiger runners hit the shaded confines of City Lake Park for nightly pre-season training.
“The turn out has been good so far,” Mackey stated. “We’ve had up to 27 different players attend the group sessions. Most of our kids came in acclimated to the summer heat. So it’s been good. However, we’re still cautious because of the heat.”
As the coach explained it, summer training sessions were built with safety in mind.
“Practices start at 7:30 PM,” Mackey said. “That’s about an hour and a half before dark when the temperature becomes user friendly. Also, the sun is below the park’s tree line which gives us extra shade. In addition, we have plenty of water, and encourage kids to drink at any time.”
Tiger cross country runners where given individualized workouts that began on May 27. The six week plan gave those that followed the prescribed routine a significant advantage when the July team sessions started.
“You can tell who worked and who didn’t,” the coach continued. “We’ve got some players that are really putting in the miles despite the July heat. Some of the freshmen are really going to push the pack. That group makes up about a third of our runners.”
A total of ten ninth graders have laced it up so far this summer. Faith Rainwater, McKenzie Griffin, Harleigh Mars, Steven Perez, and Ethan Chapman return as mainstream freshmen from last year’s junior high squad.
“What’s nice is that these athletes can run junior high and then move up for senior high by regionals,” Mackey announced. “That whole freshmen class has a runner’s mentality. Most are doing level two workouts right now.”
Only four upper classmates from last year’s squad return to the Tiger den. Alyssa Berry is the only senior. Lennon Woods, Jessica George, and Addison Goetz return as juniors. Woods is the only All-District and River Valley All-Star runner that returns for the Tigers.
Five Mansfield players lost off of last season’s team completed the year as All-Stars. Only four new high school players have joined the ranks to help fill in the squad.
“We definitely have youth on our side,” Mackey admitted. “Our second biggest class is the eighth graders.”
Olivia Bouse is one of those eighth graders that has stood out this summer.
“Olivia was less than a second away from being the junior high conference champion last year as a seventh grader,” the coach reminisced. “She is nearly a level two runner already this summer. She’s in better shape now than she was a year ago. So, we’re definitely looking forward to her progress.”
Coach emphasized that it’s not to late to join in the sessions. Routines are catered to the individual abilities. He went on to say that while some players might put in five mile runs some of the beginners are on a half-mile to two mile schedule.
Raine Hecox, a seventh grade newcomer, started in half-mile increments. By week two she had pushed beyond the two mile mark with minimal rest.
“Raine is going to be competitive,” Mackey predicted. “We don’t usually get seventh graders until school starts. She will definitely be further along than the rest of the beginners. It will be exciting to see her first medal.”