Posted Date: 02/21/2023
Maybe the most exciting part of Saturday night’s ATCA state championship for Tiger track fans came in the waning moments of the 1A/2A state indoor finals in the men’s division.
Mansfield was steadily picking up points here and there. A few highlight moments ensued including anything sophomore Trey Powell was involved in coupled with the youthful spirit of a flock of freshman boys at their first state meet.
Before most had realized, the Mansfield men were suddenly within 16 points of a state trophy. Sorry, it wasn’t quite the first place statue that the group obviously thirsted for, but rather the runner-up prize that was suddenly within reach.
To a program that has been void of state wide recognition, the secondary prize was a stepping stone worth the grasp. The final furious moments gave them a hint a state prize was possible.
Mansfield took a baker’s dozen to the Arkansas Track Coaches Association Indoor Track and Field State finals to compete for the men’s 1A/2A championship. Of the 13 Mansfield men attending, 10 were freshmen and only 3 upperclassmen. Those were the boys that almost got the job done.
With two unscored events remaining, Mansfield trailed Cross County by only 16 points.
Mansfield knew it had Powell’s 10 triple jump points coming as the sophomore track savant had just leaped a potential school record 42’ 2” to win the next to last event.
That would have potentially put the MHS boys within 6 points of the runner-up position going into the final 4x400m relay. Quitman, upon whom the Tigers originally set their sights, was already a shoo-in for the small school championship.
The Tigers, still unsure of how the other triple jump points were divided up, combined three of their top freshmen with anchorman Powell for a thrilling 4x400m relay finale.
The Mansfield women had all but officially been declared the state champions with a huge lead going into the finale race. The buzz about the school’s 14th state track championship suddenly switched over to the men’s side lending renewed enthusiasm towards a Tiger team now lurking within striking distance of notable significance.
Braxton Bartlett, who had shown real speed in his earlier races, would start the relay. It was obvious his confidence grew throughout the proceedings as he sprinted a third place 200m time and a fifth place 400m score.
Dominic Shores would receive the first handoff as the second leg. Shores had also built momentum with a fourth place finish and possible school record 11.12 in the 60m hurdles.
All-State cross country runner Joey Williams wanted a turn as the third leg despite already running 3.5 miles through a full schedule of distance races.
That left Powell, a short sprints racer, and horizontal jumper as the anchor.
Not the biggest fan of the 4x400m relay, Powell was challenged by Coach John Mackey earlier in the week with the possibility of a final’s scenario that might need Powell’s talents.
“He’s one of the top players in the area with an enviable talent for speed,” said Mackey. “I asked him if it came down to a state trophy wouldn’t you want the outcome in your hands as the anchor. He realized the wisdom of the decision days before it ever played out.”
Not knowing how the points would ultimately add up, the Tigers ran. They ran hard.
The rest of the boys, and girls too crowded the raised track for a proximal view and contagious yell zone. The Mansfield coaches including new men’s coach Ethan Bowman, girl’s coach Mackey, and assistant cross country coach Susan Martin covered strategic infield positions to offer encouragement. Then parents and friends stood on their feet too, stirring up a rally cry for the Tiger boys.
Yes, Mansfield ran hard winning their small school heat in a time of 4:04.36. An All-State effort indeed but it did not hold up for the 10 point prize. Cross County posted a slightly better time in another heat to win the event. Mansfield managed eight points after dropping to second.
As the relay times rolled in, so did the triple jump tallies. Cross County did well there too. Final results kept the gap strikingly close to the pre-rally margin.
Quitman was the 1A/2A State Champs at 154 points. Cross Country maintained runner-up with 113 points. Mansfield closed in third with 96 points and a more mature understanding of the task at hand.
The numbers game didn’t favor the young Tigers. However, what’s encouraging is that additional track talent is waiting in the wings as the other winter sport concludes.
Mansfield saw large efforts from the jumps team. Zander Walters went nearly 3 feet above his practice average in the long jump to get fourth place with a mark of 16’ 9.25”. Powell went 16’ 1” for sixth in the same event.
Jonah Martin, Joseph Carter, Alex Hecox, and Williams started the night with 4x800m points despite lap count troubles by meet officials.
Shores and Hecox combined for 8 points in the 60m hurdles. The pair landed in fourth and sixth place respectively.
Ethan Martin and Dakota Langford combined for 9 points in the men’s shot put. Martin threw 36’ 3.25” for fourth place. Langford pushed past 34’ 3.75 “ for fifth place.
Ashton Hinkle offered distance points along with Jonah Martin, Cater, and Williams. Dawson Robinson competed in the 60m dash.
Mansfield’s men track team take to Fayetteville’s Tyson Complex for the 2023 ATCA Championship