Lacking experienced upperclassmen, Mansfield relied on a freshman and a sophomore to score points at the class 3A state track meet.
Navigating a realigned conference, Mansfield uncharacteristically advanced only four athletes out of the difficult 3A-1 West district meet to the class 3A state finals on April 30. Out of those four athletes, a freshman and a sophomore led the way for the Tiger scoring.
Sadie Roberts, a freshman high jumper, tied for fourth at the Green Forest hosted state track meet held on Tuesday night. Coming in, Roberts’ conference ranking had her listed as the sixth best jumper at the meet.
“Sadie did a good job of calming the nerves and staying focused in the moment,” stated Coach John Mackey. “She just about tied her own personal record at five feet. That would have guaranteed an All-State spot and possibly first. Her heel just rolled the crossbar at the last second.”
Roberts was among a log jam of jumpers that cleared 4’ 10”. An early miss derailed her standings and pushed her down the final rankings.
“We talked a lot the last few days of practice about jumping clean,” continued Mackey. “State always seem to come down to misses in an equal height scenario. There’s so many good jumpers that it’s hard to just out jump all the other athletes. Regardless, Sadie was in the mix and proved she’s one of the best high jumpers in our class.”
Bri Sanderson, the sophomore point producer, did his best at the men’s discus ring. The large framed track athlete turned his third throw of the day into his best ever. A 124’ 6” whirlybird passed all but the final four competitors yet to through.
Guaranteed a spot in the finals with three more tosses coming, Sanderson was all smiles. With his position coach, Dustin Payne, at his side; the two realized scoring points in a state track meet was a real possibility for the All-District tenth grader.
“The high jump and discus ran at the same time within ten yards of each other,” noted Mackey. “Coach Payne kept his watchful eye on Bri as I tutored Sadie. That didn’t stop either one of us from bouncing back and forth at both venues to watch our two kids excel. All our track coaches took real pride in watching Mansfield kids succeed.”
Sanderson ended the meet keeping his preliminary toss of 124’ 6”. It placed him in sole possession of fifth place and four points for the Tigers.
Mansfield’s other opportunities to score came from their lone qualifying senior and another sophomore.
Makayla Strutton, a sophomore hurdler, was the first to take the track for the Tigers at a 12:30 PM preliminary race in the 100m hurdles. The objective was to make the finals with a top two finish or be one of the remaining four best times overall.
Strutton landed just outside that window. Her 18.48 clocking was good but not good enough to advance. When the smoke cleared from the other heat, Strutton was left below the top eight. Her time was the tenth best measure at state.
Sara Willadsen, the only senior Lady Tiger to make the state meet, did so in the 100m dash. Her race was approximately 15 minutes after Strutton’s go.
The clock was not Willadsen’s friend on this day. Mansfield’s most productive athlete for the 2019 season fell victim to saturated speed dripping from other parts of the state. Her 14.28 prelim mark was slower than the 13.81 stoppage that sent her to the state.
“Sara and Makayla really did well, but they both experienced the speed that lives and breaths outside Scott County,” confessed their head coach. “Sara was thirteenth and Makayla was tenth in the state. That’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s a tangible accomplishment and we look forward to this pair representing Mansfield at the heptathlon in two weeks.”