“I loved every part of it,” impressed Mansfield sophomore Laney Wood as she reflected on the last time she and her sister Jadelynn competed together. “I love that I was able to compete one more time with my sister. I wouldn’t have made it through this track season without her.”
The emotional bond between sisters Laney Wood and Jadelynn Wood runs deep. Their high school track coach, John Mackey, says their passion for the sport of track and field runs just as deep.
Both athletic intensity and personal connection characteristics from the two Mansfield Lady Tigers was on full display as the pair represented Mansfield at the state’s annual heptathlon-decathlon on May 17-18.
“My last meet was amazing,” confessed Jadelyn Wood, a senior that had actually graduated nine days early as part of the Mansfield High School class of 2023. “Our time together was spent making memories, cracking jokes, and pushing each other to be better. It was bittersweet to compete with her one last time, but we enjoyed every second of it.”
“It was great to go out and compete with amazing athletes from all over the state,” continued the older of the two siblings. “The whole experience was just amazing. It was life changing.”
The sister act has made enormous contributions to the Mansfield track and field program as well as the cross country program over their time competing for the same team.
This season, as sophomore and senior, the pair helped the indoor track team repeat as the indoor state champions. They brought home the outdoor track state runner-up trophy. They pushed their team at the state cross country finals up to third place.
Last school year, the pair joined forces as a freshman and junior to earn the school’s first indoor track state title since 2014. They also brought back the state runner-up trophy in cross country for the second consecutive season.
“They have been incredible together,” said retiring Mansfield mentor John Mackey. “This year in particular those two were peas in a pod. They were each other’s best friend and unabridged motivators. Their close bond was evident from the start of summer practice to the last race.”
“It’s pretty cool how people react to meeting them, and notice their similarities,” expanded the head coach. “We visited our friend Coach (Gaile) Hainley at the physical therapy center on the way home from the heptathlon. Those nurses there swore the sisters were twins since they looked and acted so much alike.”
The coach added another example of mistaken perception when he cited a trip to the Mena Bearcat Relays back in April.
“The ladies working the scoring computers in Mena thought the same thing about being twins,” stated Mackey. “They gushed about how similar the two were, how polite they were, and how athletic they were. Jadelynn and Laney will make positive impressions.”
Asan end of the 2023 track season, the coach entered the two Lady Tigers into the state heptathlon. It was a two day specialty event conducted in Fayetteville at the high school track facility near Ramey Junior High.
Over a two day period the pair would go head to head with some of the best track and field athletes statewide in seven skilled events. Those events included the 100m hurdles, long jump, discus, and 200m dash on day one. The high jump, shot put, and 800m run would conclude day two.
Jadelynn, the older of the sisters, showed experience matters. The recent graduate increased her last year’s heptathlon point total by 322 points and moved up 12 places to 36th place overall. Her point total for this year’s contest was 2,981 points.
Jadelynn’s top two producing events at this year’s show came from personal records in the 200m dash and 800m run. Respectively the final races of each consecutive day surged her score by large amounts.
She ran the 200m dash in 28.51 seconds for 591 points. She finished the 800m run in 2:43.86 for 529 points.
“Today, I competed in my last ever high school track meet,” recalled Jadelynn at the conclusion of day two. “It was really good. I had a really good day. It was even better when all my hard work paid off with two PR’s and winning my heat in the 800.”
Before her last high school meet was over, Jadelynn acknowledged that she wanted to win at least one event in her group. That happened in her final race.
In the 800m run, the blue eyed senior led from start to finish. Giving credit to her 4x400m relay experience, the Lady Tiger captain was more than capable of avoiding the proverbial monkey that track purists say can jump on your back down the home stretch.
Impressive throughout the entire two lap race, Jadelynn was first in her heat just like she had wanted. Among all small school times, she was third. Among all contestants, she was 22nd overall compared to all 800m times.
“Jadelynn absolutely loves track,” shared Coach Mackey as he recalled his team captain’s final race. “Her grin stretched as wide as her dimples would allow. She was elated with her performance. She was thrilled to be racing. She loved the fact she was able to compete with and against her baby sister one more time. I’m proud of them both.”
Laney Wood saw the heptathlon as an opportunity to prolong her time with her favorite player on the team. Like a warm blanket on a chilly track night, her snuggled security was worn with the warmth of big sister’s support.
“I’m so thankful I was given this opportunity,” said Laney. “I’m so thankful for one extra track meet with my favorite teammate and coach.”
The two Mansfield players were assigned different flights at the heptathlon. That didn’t keep them from keeping a watchful eye on each other’s progress.
“It was great getting to run with my baby sister,” proclaimed Jadelynn. “I really enjoyed watching her challenge herself and compete in events that she wouldn’t normally do.”
Laney, a two time All-State cross country runner, was partly out of her element at the specialty track event. Her typical track meets center around distance racing, the pole vault, triple jump, and relay races. This meet required her to learn six of the seven events on the fly.
Notwithstanding, the first time multi athlete still scored 2,483 points for 48th place overall in the heptathlon. Her best results came from a 2:49.49 mark in the 800m run for 469 points. She also showed an innate ability in the shot put with a 27’ 2.75” toss of the 4 kg ball for 419 points.
“Laney is the next leader,” commented Mackey. “I believe the lessons learned these past few seasons will give her a new maturity and a reason to take the reins. Her sister taught her well. She’ll want to continue to make her proud.”
Before the heptathlon began, both sisters received an unexpected pep talk from the collegiate record holder in the men’s decathlon. Ayden Owens-Delerme of the University of Arkansas stopped by the Arkansas Activities Association showcase track proceedings to give a few words of encouragement to all 125 athletes in attendance.
“I loved meeting the SEC champion,” said Laney. “It showed me that eventually your hard work does show up.”
“It was really inspiring to meet the SEC champ, “ echoed Jadelynn. “To hear his story of how he became the great runner that he is today, I hope I have a story like that to tell one day.”
At this moment, Jadelynn knows her high school spikes will retire with great memories. Whether her running career is completely over remains to be seen.
The MHS graduate spent the day after her last high school competition touring the campus of Rich Mountain Community College. An offer to continue her racing career is on the table.
“I just got done meeting with Coach (Samantha) Shores,” read a text Jadelynn sent her high school coach on Friday, the day after the heptathlon event. “I had a great time today and I really enjoyed getting to know more about her and the school.”
A decision as to the direction Jadelynn Wood will take athletic career next remains unanswered. Only a hint of the future was left to decipher as the senior left comments on a video message after day two of her final high school event.
“I’m sad that it’s over, but I’m onto new things,” revealed Jadelynn’s video message. “There is hope for the future.”