Posted Date: 05/15/2023
Moments of sun and buckets of rain; it’s as if a motion sensor controlled a roof above Cyclone Stadium allowing strong periods of each. Mansfield saw the effects of the on and off weather switch as the Arkansas Activities Association’s Meet of Champs took place in Russellville on Wednesday, May 10.
Mansfield had obvious athletic bright spots as the sun shined. Like most attendees had when the rains came, the going also got tough.
The Tiger track teams qualified in three events to attend what amounts to be the All-Stars of track and field across Arkansas high schools. The women’s discus, boys pole vault, and women's 4x100m relay were the qualifying events for MHS.
Maybe the brightest spot for Mansfield came after the meet’s third or fourth weather delay. Home school senior Ashton Hinkle claimed the personal record he was looking for on his third pole vault jump of the day.
Hinkle, the 2023 class 2A state champion in pole vault, had been looking to clear 12 feet in recent weeks. He wrestled away the small school state title a week ago with a personal best 11’ 10” jump in Quitman. Doing so scored him a MOC invite and another chance to get the long awaited clearance.
Ranked near the bottom of the 16 invited MOC entries, Hinkle was just happy to get another chance for a new personal record before his high school career ended.
Because the qualifying marks from the big school contestants were so high, the games committee modified the opening height rule. Instead of six inches below the 10th best qualifying jump, the bar was lowered so small school jumpers might have a chance at a modest opening height.
Hinkle was relieved the opening height was at least lowered 11’ 6”. He wasn’t too thrilled after that. The bar would be elevated to 12’ 6” in the second round to coincide with what should have been a truer opening height.
To understand the quality of athletes in attendance, the final results had three vaulters clear 15 feet or better. Three others would clear at least 14 feet.
Hinkle could have been intimidated carrying the only pole the school could afford to meet his weight limits. Others in competition, many of whom had personal trainers, carried large bags with 5 and 6 pole choices.
The Tiger state champ cleared the first bar while most of the others sat. The bar immediately climbed one foot. Hinkle was back up in relatively quick succession.
One had to wonder how the senior would react when the next height was set six inches higher than any height he had ever attempted even in practice. The answer came soon as a first attempt at 12’ 6” was a bad miss.
After confirming with his coach, Ethan Bowman, the two decided to adjust the standards back allowing a little more room to climb. Attempt number two came seconds later.
Hinkle delivered. Attentive Mansfield players and coaches were overjoyed along with Hinkle himself.
“I’m so proud of Ashton,” said Mansfield boy’s coach Ethan Bowman. “He works so hard. He just skipped right over twelve feet and got himself twelve-six. This was a special day.”
The 12’ 6” jump was all the Mansfield small school champion could clear. Strangely, it was enough for the MHS core.
Rains renewed, stretching the competition into a long marathon with remaining jumpers. Eventually a MOC winner was crowned with a meet best 15' 6” vault. Although Mansfield top vaulter only finished 14th overall it was still a day of satisfaction.
Hours before MHS discus thrower Seven Sanderson started the Tigers first event. The two-time 2A state champion got in three preliminary attempts and one throw in the finals before the first lighting delay shut things down.
Going back after a near 45 minute delay did Sanderson nor the other throwers any favors. Her best attempt of 102’ in the prelims would stand as her best mark of the midday event. The slippery ring and slick handling upon the reopening of the venue did little for the finals.
Sanderson had to settle for 10th place and no improvement over her state title personal record 115’ 9” toss.
“Our real goal was about trying to reach a new PR and possibly the school record,” noted Mansfield women’s coach John Mackey. “The conditions just didn’t cooperate. Seven had a great year. She should be proud of reaching the second best throw in school history.”
More rain put puddles on the track as the Lady Tiger 4x100m relay was nearing their now late start. The 2A state champions in the short relay race featured Mansfield speedsters Kayla Bieker, Carter Whiley, Jadelynn Wood, and Daisy Nelson.
The four had arrived at the stadium at noon due to the teammates’ early field event. They were to race around 6:15 PM. They didn’t run until after 7:30 PM.
“This group of four ran the third fastest time in our school history,” claimed Mackey. “We just wanted an opportunity to move up the ladder one or two more rungs. Tonight’s conditions were not right for another chart topper.”
Mansfield’s 4x100m relay settled for a solid time of 53.40. It wasn’t their best together but it was good.
“I know the girls were a bit disappointed, “ confessed the coach. “But, they were a special group together. Jadelynn got to be in the Meet of Champs as a senior and that’s worth its weight in gold.”