Going into the season, Mansfield High School took a fresh look at their men’s track and field team. Laboring to field a competitive team through much of the past decade, the group approached the 2018 season with a different mind set.
Crossing over to help the men was longtime women’s coach John Mackey along with second year assistant Josh Bryan and newcomer Dustin Payne. Together the three track minded coaches went to work convincing those players willing to try that they just needed some refining of skills, and an opportunity to compete.
With the results of the 3A Region 1 West District Championships held at Mansfield on April 25, the results proved promising for a refocused Tiger squad. The MHS men finished in their highest position in over a decade with a third place team score.
“For awhile, we held the top ranked time or distance in nine different events on the men’s side of the conference,” said Tiger Head Coach John Mackey. “Things were setting up for a really fun conference championship. Unfortunately, we had some bumps in the road losing some key people through injury and other issues just before conference play. Otherwise, a different outcome and a possible trophy grab goes the Tigers’ way.”
“This team went through several transformations throughout the year,” continued Mackey. “Our assistants did a super job with limited access to this talent pool.”
Mansfield was only 12 points away from a trophy at the conference event. Cedarville, the 2017 defending conference champions, edged the Tigers 136 to 124 for the runner-up prize. Elkins, the traditional power of the league, took top honors with a run-a-way 224 points.
Two of the first players to sign up were senior distance specialist Devon Pyles and sophomore speedster Jaicy Griffin. On a raining district finals, the pair accounted for 46.5 points of the Tiger team total.
Pyles won the 1600m and 3200m runs. He was also fourth in the 800m run and was a member of the second place 4x800m relay.
“Devon really is the silent leader of the team,” stated Mackey. “No one out works him. He is self motivated to be the best. Several small colleges asked about his availability next season. But, he’s already committed to the Army.”
Griffin won the 200m dash. He ran a second place 100m dash time that sent him to state in both events. Finally, he anchored a third place 4x100m relay team that was patched together a day before the finals.
That Griffin ran at all in the conference finals was a bit of a miracle. The tenth grader tweak a knee at the Quad City Meet in the long jump nine days before the conference showdown. Doctors evaluated the leg and granted Griffin a release 24 hours before districts.
Staff members in communication with the player’s parents decide on a limited schedule for the sprinter. The agreement included a reduced role of only short sprints. No jumps were allowed.
The sophomore was disappointment as he was almost assured another win in the long jump. Leading up to the finals, he was the league’s top rated long jumper with a 20’ 5.5” previous performance.
Garrett Wilson, a first year senior that decided to split his time between baseball and track, helped build a state qualifying 4x800m relay team. He was joined by freshman Victor Steffen, Netherlands native Joris Felius, and Pyles. Collectively the group ran 9:39.85 for a second place All-District mark.
Bryar Hattabaugh, another dual sport spring time athlete, found his way to the state round with All-District performances in the long and triple jumps.
It was at the triple jump pit that the senior shined. His leap of 40’ 11.5” bested the next closest competitor by nearly four feet.
Hattabaugh’s long jump went 19’ 3.25” for second place. An Elkins athlete went 20’ 2” for the win.
Freshman Renden Emery gave the Tigers a boost with scoring marks in five events. The first year player had his best outcome in the 300m hurdles. His 50.22 seconds over the eight barrier race landed him into third place.
Bri Sanderson, another freshman, climbed to third in the discus event. He threw the larger high school implement 99’ 10”.
Blayne Bryant and Curtis Griffin both scored in the pole vault as first time jumpers. Bryant also pointed in the 400m dash as well as the 4x400m relay.
Sophomore Jake Smith helped in the relays. Felius added in the distance events. Jacob Brown scored in the discus, and Steffen got a 300m hurdle point.