Pictured: Tiger freshman, Raine Hecox, keeps the clock on her night off at the Tiger Relays
The week after spring break Mansfield typically welcomes many talented track teams from around the area. Along with those tradition-rich programs lining up to compete during Tiger Relay Week, many former players and staff members come back as well.
“This was our 15th season to host the Tiger Relays,” said Mansfield meet director and head track coach John Mackey. “It would have been the 16th time but Covid shut us down last season.”
“With every year we’ve been lucky enough to have former players, graduates, and faculty members come back to help. Without their community service, we wouldn’t be able to host such a spectacular event.”
The coach explained that many of the event workers, press box personnel, and race crew were from Mansfield. If they were not directly from Mansfield, their kids went or are currently going to Mansfield.
“We are so lucky that some of the same faces return each season,” continued the coach. “The bench, the finish line, the press box, the field event venues are flowing with Tiger tradition. I can’t thank them enough for coming back year after year to serve these current Mansfield athletes as well as the many teams that come here.”
Mansfield has hosted as many as 27 schools at any one particular Tiger Relay over the years. This season with health guidelines and restrictions limiting the field, the Tigers invited only around a dozen schools per night.
Tiger Relay Week 2021 began on March 29 with the 7th Grade Ribbon Run. It continued the next night with the Senior Tiger Relays on March 30. The final night concluded with the Junior Tiger Relays on Apr 1.
Event workers familiar with the proceedings included people like MHS track Boosters Dave Otto and Bill Jones. Otto has controlled the finish line and backup timer since the early days of the home-held relays. Jones has manned the high jump for the past four years.
Kymberly Jones, whose daughter Darby is a current member of the Lady Tiger senior high team, has been involved as a volunteer since her oldest daughter Eden ran several seasons ago. Both Kym and Eden joined the volunteers again this season.
Kym stationed her familiar finish line clerk position. Eden worked long jump and triple jump pits.
Heath Grady, a Mansfield graduate six years ago, has been working the benches for several seasons. He and legendary track coach Gaile Hainley have handled those duties for some time now at Mansfield home meets.
Husband and wife team Whitney and Danielle Overton, Mansfield graduates and current coaches at other schools come back year after year. Whit Overton generally fires the starter’s pistol when not coaching his own team while Danielle operates one of three computers in the press box to score the meets.
Coach Mackey’s wife Deborah has kept score since the school opened its track in 2005. She did take this year off as a health precaution due to being the caretaker of the couple’s grandson during the day.
Current Mansfield track assistant Kaylie Pyles filled in most effectively as the meet scorekeeper in Deborah’s absence. Pyles learned the complexities of the scoring computer during a 3-hour spring break training session as well as using on-the-job training.
Joey Dinar, who has been a mainstay at the discus venue for several seasons, also took a pass on this season for health concerns as well.
Adam Hecox, another former Tiger athlete, also trained over the break. He learned the intricacies of the discus to lead that venue in Joey’s absence.
Adam’s daughter and current freshman runner, Raine Hecox, kept the big clock at the finish line. Ethan Chapman, the current holder of the Mansfield Junior High 1600m run school record, also kept the big clock this past week.
Jacob Brown, a 2020 track athlete, came home to run the shot put arena.
Faculty members Tracey Barnette, Sara Taylor, and Keith Stovall all joined the fray. Barnette operated the capture computer for all the races. Taylor learned the triple jump and long jump in a very short amount of time to help. Stovall weighed the shot and discus implements to make the senior high meet legal for pre-qualification into state competition.
Travis Pettus kept the show going as the meet announcer. Pettus has become the most recognized voice in town as the public address announcer to most all athletic events at the school.
“Without all these moving parts, the Tiger Relays wouldn’t exist,” stated Mackey. “We had several parents working in the concession stand and a board member too. A lot of people helped the wheels turn. Our athletes that didn’t run a particular night, helped the other grade levels on their off nights.”
Coaches Josh Bryan and Mark Tolton completed the puzzle pieces taking whatever roles were needed to make the Tiger Relays function.