The new conference alignment didn’t do Mansfield any favors in the cross country field. A mere glance at the results of the Arkansas Activities Association state finals proves the Tigers landed in one of the most dominate districts in Arkansas.
Mansfield High School was among a slew of teams to compete at the state cross country championships on Friday, November 2 in Hot Springs. The class 3A races in which MHS was entered was part of a 10 race schedule for all AAA classifications.
In the 3A division, it was the Tiger’s own district that powered the proceedings. Five out of the top nine schools in the senior girls competition were from the 3A – 1West conference including state champion West Fork. Over on the boy’s side, five of the top 14 schools came form the local league.
“It was a real show case of talent from our conference,” explained John Mackey, coach of the Mansfield long distance teams. “Our kids weren’t afraid. We stuck our noses right into the thick of it. I’m proud of what we did with such an inexperienced team.”
Mansfield’s women finished ninth in the state with a group of freshmen leading the scoring pack. The Tiger men climbed into 14th place with all first year players.
West Fork won their first state crown in the girl’s division with an accumulated 33 points. Senior Kendall Hays led the charge with the overall individual title. She ran the 5K distance in 20:30.10.
Elkins was third in the girl’s standings. Waldron came in at sixth, Greenland went seventh, and Mansfield ninth. Those final three conference schools mentioned in the previous line were all within seven points of one another.
West Fork’s men were state runner-ups. Elkins reached seventh, Waldron tenth, Greenland eleventh, and Mansfield closed in fourteenth for the men’s event.
According to the AAA handbook, the top 10 percent of competing runners earned All-State recognition. By that standard, seven of the 3A-1West conference girls and three of the district boys made the prestigious honor roll list.
Included among the notables was Mansfield’s own Faith Rainwater.
The freshman sensation scored 12th place overall among 118 runners to cross the finish line. Her mark of 23:03.3 was a personal best in only her third competitive 5K race since moving up to the senior high team two weeks ago.
“Faith was fantastic,” beamed Mackey about his prized pupil. “She was ranked in the top 25 going into the race. She proved she’s way better than that.”
Rainwater was among five ninth grade runners that made the final state roster for the Lady Tigers. Those included Faith’s twin sister Hope Rainwater as well as Shelby Cole, McKenzie Griffin, and Harleigh Mars.
All five of the Mansfield freshmen accounted for the Lady Tiger scoring. Griffin was second best on the team at 24:38.7 for 34th place. Mars crossed next at 57th place. She was timed at 26:15.7. Cole notched in at 65th with a time of 26:32.1 while Hope Rainwater raced to 70th place in 26:42.7.
Josefin Lofving and Jessica George were the team’s first two blockers. Alyssa Berry and Sara Willadsen ran on the active roster.
The Mansfield men saw a pair of freshmen led their pack as well. Ethan Chapman was the top Tiger at number 50 with a 20:18.00 mark. He was followed by fellow freshman Mikeal Harrison at 60th with a time of 20:41.50.
“Ethan has been a real bright spot for the men’s team,” said Mackey. “Mikeal has come on of late and has been determined to succeed.”
Artem Zirka, the oldest Tiger on the team, was 63rd. The Ukrainian exchange student was the group’s fastest runner for most of the season but dropped to third on the team at state.
Zirka slipped on the muddy course inside Oaklawn Park to put his abdomen in contact with a course t-post. The collision forced the junior athlete into stress for the final two miles. Consequently, his time of 20:49.70 fell below his expected outcome.
Sophomore Renden Emery clocked in at 21:21.30 for 84th place. Freshman John Branche was 134 at 24:15.50. Together the pair joined Chapman, Harrison, and Zirka for the Tiger scoring five.
Zac Desormeaux was the Tiger’s lone displacer. He was 137 out of 156 competitors.