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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Tigers Shaving Times As Post-Season Nears

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Pictured: Mansfield’s senior girls finish their regular season cutting down times

For cross country kids, the clock is the enemy. The Mansfield senior girls are well aware of that fact. Now that championship season nears, the Lady Tigers are approaching it with a collective mission to shave time.

Mansfield’s oldest and most experienced long-distance team made a slight shift in practice last week. Transitioning from high mileage and building conditioning, the group turned their attention to faster paces and speed training. Those formulated practices led to a half dozen season-best just a few days later. 

Jadelynn Wood of Mansfield uses her stride training to pass a Bentonville run along the Van Buren trails

Mansfield mirrored those practice plans to gain ground at the Magazine Rattler Run on October 13. The results were a runner-up team trophy and new standards for six individual runners.

Led by Faith Rainwater’s 22:55 mark over the 5K, Lady Tiger teammates crossed one by one with season-best performances. Darby Jones sprinted by in 23:57. Jadelynn Wood wheeled past in 24:35. Hope Rainwater rolled for 24:40. Katlynn Moore clocked 24:53, and Alyssa James crossed in 28:32.

“They’re starting to trust their conditioning,” stated Mansfield coach John Mackey. “Cooler temperatures gave them an invitation to run fast and they responded.”

Lady Tiger Darby Jones leads a second wave at the Van Buren Classic

The Rattler Run was the opening frame of a two meet week. The second stanza occurred a few days later with another 5K race in Van Buren on October 17.

The Van Buren Cross Country Classic didn’t quite produce the same speedy results as in Magazine, but there were still solid numbers on a slightly more difficult course.

“Saturday’s course was a little more diverse with ups and downs,” confessed the coach. “We’re still excited for the progress especially since three of our runners got back very late from Lincoln after cheering the previous night’s football game.”

Faith Rainwater turns in the Tigers’ best 5K time this season at 22:55

Again, Faith Rainwater led the pack. The tiny junior navigated the three-loop course in 23:30. Jones (24:43), Wood (25:01), and Moore (25:36) followed in their typical top-five team order. This time James (27:38) who cut nearly another minute off her meet measure was in the scoring five. Hope Rainwater was unable to make the trip.

The Lady Tigers weren’t the only ones to make gains or rather losses for the week. The two senior boys, John Branche and Ethan Streets, also posted their most effective runs of the season.

Branche pushed past the pain for a 21:41 clocking at Magazine. It was his season-best. Then at Saturday’s Van Buren 5K, the junior nearly equaled that time by running 21:43.

Tiger John Branche pushes past a Waldron Bulldog at a recent cross country meet

“Again, we’re pretty happy with the effort,” said Mackey. “John (Branche) played football the night before, rolled in at 1 AM, then jumped on the cross country bus at 7 AM to go run another 3 miles.”

Streets, who has been building his stamina since joining the team in August, was able to complete his first career 5K at Magazine. The senior was excited to finish the 3 lap course in 28:12. He did not attend the Van Buren meet.

Both the men’s and women’s teams will begin their championship series starting Wednesday, October 21. The long-distance runners will travel to Mena’s Lions Club for the Tom Sturthard Top 25 Regionals hosted by Acorn. They will run the 2A West Conference meet on Saturday, October 31 back at Magazine. Then, the series will conclude with the 2A State Championship on Thursday, November 5 in Hot Springs.

John Branche and Ethan Streets await the last race at Magazine. Streets completed his first career 5K race at the Rattler Run
Happy for personal records, six of Mansfield’s senior high runners shaved time off their 5K marks in Magazine. Glowing from left to right are Darby Jones, Jadelynn Wood, Hope Rainwater, Alyssa James, Faith Rainwater, and Katlynn Moore
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