Posted Date: 07/31/2022
Mansfield freshman Joseph Carter didn’t complicate matters when asked how he was dealing with the summer heat. One of the returning runners for the Mansfield Tiger cross country team explained it about as simply as it gets.
“I drink plenty of water and take my rest,” offered Carter. “By the day, I feel like I’m getting stronger and more acclimated. Definitely feeling more confident.”
Carter’s even-tempered answer proved powerful in its message. Mansfield distance runners and its other sports athletes have navigated the hottest summer in years. To know the warning signs of heat illness and practice preventive measures shows a maturity level in the freshman’s thinking.
You might say that Carter, who juggles morning pre-season football training with evening distance race conditioning, has a pretty deep awareness of what’s going on in the high heat arenas of both sports.
The Mansfield cross country runners and their coach in particular have been watching the thermometer rather close in recent weeks. Soaring temperatures have wreaked havoc with the usual pre-season training prompting the team to make adjustments. The group has adapted and even gotten a little creative with their practice plans.
“Other than running in the dark before the sun comes up or goes down,” started Mansfield coach John Mackey. “We’ve been using the treadmills inside or dodging desks left in the high school hallways due to summer custodial work. I’m fairly sure not many teenagers are willing to get up at 5 AM during the summer to run. We've had to find some conditioned air around campus to get much training done.”
“It’s a little cooler around 8:00 at night when we get done with indoor warm up,” continued the coach. “Even then, we’ve really limited any outdoor time. We’ve been paying attention to heat protocols.”
Senior Jadelynn Wood, an All-Star runner and the MHS track player of the year last season, gave her take on the hot weather workouts.
“I feel like the heat has set me back,” said Wood. “It’s hard to get up in the morning. Hard to find a cool part of the day. But, I’m starting to bounce back.”
Wood, who has taken on a stronger leadership role within the team, has been adamant about making her senior season memorable despite the weather conditions.
“I really hope I make an impact on the little ones,” expressed Wood. “I want to make it more fun for everyone in general. It’s the beginning of the end for me. I miss my old team. They were really like sisters. But, I’m excited for the new season and to step up to be a leader no matter the conditions.”
Mansfield opened pre-season conditioning as a team in early July. The mandatory Arkansas Activities Association dead period left veteran runners to do individual training away from campus prior to that.
Hot weather immediately greeted the returning players. With it, true convictions of even the most dedicated distance runners were tested.
“It really takes some strong minded players to put on those shoes and prepare under these types of conditions,” sympathized Mackey. “The ones that prepared on their own are adjusting rather quickly. The new ones are realizing we try to take care of them and monitor their progress.”
First year junior girl runner Abby Smith has taken the elements in stride.
“I already see a lot of progress,” said the seventh grade rookie. “On the first day, I couldn’t last a mile even in inside with the cooler hallways. By the second week, I was able to do a mile on the treadmill in a little over six minutes.”
Smith, like Carter, has been excited to participate in a multitude of activities. With her first opportunity to enjoy school sports, the new Lady Tiger athlete has already joined the middle school volleyball team, cheer squad, and cross country team.
Smith’s newest coach recognized the level of commitment displayed so far by the seventh grader.
“Abby came straight off the summer softball circuit and joined our running club along with other sports,” explained Mackey. “In the early stages, she’s showing up as quite the little athlete. I see real potential. She’s also a heck of a recruiter. It seems like she brings a buddy to come join the fun nearly every day.”
So far, as the summer has dwindled towards the inevitable start of school, players like Smith have been enjoying the early experiences despite the conditions.
“I want to do as many sports this year as possible,” smiled Smith. “Today, I did volleyball, cheer, and cross country. I want to develop muscle and get in shape.”
According to the coach, Mansfield runners will continue to work from the high school storm shelter during the summer heat wave. Practices began at 7 PM on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. New players are encouraged to join. Sports physicals are required.