Posted Date: 06/27/2023
A running path has worn down a permanent trail connecting Mansfield HIgh School to college athletic opportunities. At least in the past few years, that’s the way it seems.
Jadelynn Wood, a 2023 Mansfield High School graduate, recently found that path by signing a letter of intent to run cross country and track at the University of Arkansas at Rich Mountain.
By her own admission, Wood was confused about what her immediate future had in store. The decision to work, go to college, or attend a trade school left her overloaded and unsettled. All the while a highly successful high school track and cross country career loomed large in the background. Then something quite unexpected happened that brought a decision into focus.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do,” Wood, who recently turned 18 years of age in early June said. “I felt like God had a plan for me and it would be revealed soon enough.”
“I was at work one day and someone asked what I was going to do after graduation,” the River Valley All-Star continued. “I was thinking I just needed a sign that would tell me where to go. Right then, I received a text message from Coach (Samantha) Shores.”
Samantha Shores is the head women’s and men’s cross country coach at UA Rich Mountain. Her programs which are based out of Mena compete at the Division II junior college level.
“That was probably the Tuesday before the state heptathlon which was on a Wednesday and Thursday,” Wood’s recollection of the dominos effecting her future continued.
“I went down that next day on Friday to tour the campus,” she revealed further. “When I met with Coach Shores, we just got along instantly. It just felt right. I hadn’t talked to her since cross country season but she knew all about me. She kept up with me throughout the season, what I was doing, how I performed. That impressed me.”
With the suddenness of her signing a national letter of intent, Wood admitted she was a little apprehensive about moving away from home. The self-described homebody said she has been worried about leaving her family for the first time.
“I just love my family,” the recent MHS graduate confessed. “I find myself wanting to spend a lot more time with them. However, I’m looking forward to moving down there and making new friends. I’m ready to start a new chapter in my life. I feel like it’s going to be good for me.”
Wood has already met at least one new friend albeit through electronic communication. One of her new college teammates and potential roommate has reached out via text messages.
The pair bonded over their mutual decisions to run college cross country at UA Rich Mountain. Since their communications have started they have arranged to meet in person on July 11 at the university’s freshman orientation.
A few weeks after orientation, Wood will move onto the Rich Mountain campus on August 1. At that point she will begin on campus cross country practices as a precursor to the start of Fall classes.
Wood noted that she is more interested in track and field compared to cross country. After all, it was in the sport of track that the high school team captain accumulated most of her individual accolades. A quick scan of her stellar cross country resume proves long distance racing offered her an abundance of high achieving successes as well.
“I loved everything about track,” the 3-time All-District, 2-time All-State, and former Mansfield player of the year said. “I loved being in six events and anything related to track. I’m going to college mainly for track. I’ll compete in cross country to stay in shape.”
When asked about what motivated her to run and compete at a high level, Wood’s answer circled back to her relationships to family.
“It’s Coach (John) Mackey and my dad that motivate me to do my best all the time,” Wood emphasized. “They both yelled at me in a positive way. I didn’t always understand what they were saying, but I knew they had my back and would be there for me at the finish line.”
Laney Wood is Jadelynn’s father. Because his work schedule takes him out of town more often than not, the competitions he could attend were special to the upcoming college freshman.
“My dad really inspires me,” Wood expressed as her eyes gleamed with an obvious love for her father. “I just love it when he gets to see me run. Those are my fondest track memories so far.”
Laney is also the name of Wood’s younger sister. Named after their father, the younger sibling by two years had the joy of participating on the same teams as Mansfield’s most recently signed star runner.
The two were training partners, teammates, rivals, and best friends throughout the entire school year. Again, an obvious affection was on display as the older sister spoke about her relationship with the younger family member.
“It was great getting to run with my baby sister,” Rich Mountain’s newest player proclaimed after the siblings finished the 2023 season at the state heptathlon in mid-May. “I really enjoyed watching her challenge herself and compete. Our time together was spent making great memories, cracking jokes, and pushing each other to be better.”
Wood was upfront when she spoke about spending time with family. On the day of this interview she had recently returned from a beachfront vacation with her mother, sister, and extended family.
Amanda Williams is Jadelynn’s mom. Like the other members of her family, her mother holds an endearing place in her overflowing heart.
“Mom made all the big events that she could,” Wood smiled. “She was there when we won the state indoor meet, and picked up runner-up trophies at cross country and outdoor state. She got to see our 4x100m relay win state and went to the meet of champs. She was super supportive.”
As Wood’s circle of family and friends continued to connect, it was discovered that her mother Amanda was also a runner for retiring Mansfield track coach John Mackey.
Mackey spent 38 years in education. He spent most of those at Mansfield in various coaching roles. Most recently he was the school’s athletic director, cross country, and track coach. He was the only head coach for which Jadelynn Wood ever played.
“We may not be blood related, but Jadelynn is family,” Mackey shared. “I’ve known her for most of her life. I coached her mom and both her sisters. She’s a special person that earned every ounce of notoriety. I’m very proud of her. This is a courageous step forward that opens the door to a future full of possibilities. Congratulations kiddo.”