Posted Date: 07/28/2020
It’s been a disturbingly long break from competitive athletics for many players across the country. Mansfield athletes have been no exception to the unusual delay in activity. Fortunately, the early days of July brought shades of normalcy back to most MHS cross country runners.
Mansfield long distance racers traditionally have a short break near the end of May when track season is completed. They do individual workouts through June. Then as Fourth of July vacations subside, the team meets up once again for group running sessions to start pre-season.
This past week, Tiger long distance training resumed its normal calendar as a sign the extended break was over.
Tiger and Lady Tiger runners showed a pep in their collective step as athletes from the middle school and high school rallied together for nightly runs at the Mansfield City Lake Park.
“Of course the routine is a little different with health protocols and daily screenings,” Mansfield head coach John Mackey explained. “I sanitize any common area, check temperatures, ask screening questions, and hound them about social distancing. Then we get to do what we do best; run in the fresh open air.”
Around 20 participants have made the nightly sessions according to the coach. The group meets up on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 PM for the group runs around the lake park frontage.
“It’s much cooler in the evenings and you get the occasional cross breeze off the lake,” Mackey suggested. “So far the numbers are a little down from the past but the kids that are showing up are really responding to being active once again.”
According to the coach, the first three days saw the group log nearly 200 miles of collective training. That includes the beginners that are starting out with moderate work loads of a half mile to 1.5 miles a night. Experienced middle schoolers are ranging from 2.0 to 3.5 miles nightly. The older high school athletes have averaged around 4.5 miles per player per session.
The senior girls have the largest troupe and the most experience in regular attendance. Five of the nine in regular attendance earned postseason honors last season as either All-Conference, All-Region, or All-Star players. Those five include McKenzie Griffin, Darby Jones, Katlynn Moore, Faith Rainwater, and Jadelynn Wood.
Also in the fold are rising contributors Hope Rainwater and Alyssa James. Both earned significant accomplishments in previous junior high seasons. Sophomores Cassidy Carlton and Lita Hecox strengthen the senior girls roster as well. Both have shown increased endurance with the move up in competitive distance.
“If healthy, this unit looks to make a big splash in the new league,” Mackey maintained. “It’s a youthful group with no seniors. They have the drive and the confidence of a mature team seeking a special season.”
Of Tiger men’s top four runners from a year ago, two return. Those include John Branche and Ashton Hinkle.
Branche, an eleventh grader, is the most experienced Mansfield senior high boy runner for this year. Hinkle, a sophomore who moved up early onto the senior team last season as a freshman, earned an award for most miles in 2019.
Jonah Martin, a seventh grader, has joined the Tiger cross country team this summer. According to his new coach, the rookie runner was glad cooler temperatures welcomed his arrival into the details of long distance racing.
“We’ve lost some of the boys to football and other places,” the coach confessed. “I’m confident in who we have regardless of circumstances.”
So far the junior girls roster is lined with all eighth graders. The list looks to add some incoming seventh graders to build depth, and hopefully draw from an athletic freshmen class for extra support.
Trinity Triska and Laney Wood, the top two finishers of the Tom Stuthard Top 25 Southwest Regional as seventh graders in 2019, lead the pack again this season. Both earned All-District honors in the 3A Region 1 West conference a year ago and appear favorites in the new 2A-4 league this season.
Addison Bowman, Aidan Fildes, and Azlynn Stover have logged extra workouts in preparation for their second season of cross country. The trio were regulars in the June re-acclimatization workouts prior to the July team sessions.
“We’re trying to encourage other runners to join,” the coach announced. “Now's the time to give it a try. The summer is a relaxing time where each runner participates at their own level. Our cross country kids find success. Some have gone on to bigger stages even beyond high school. We’ve had cheerleaders, football kids, basketball players, volleyball, and regular track athletes find the experience rewarding. Our coaches have been good about sharing the same season athletes.”
Mansfield cross country practice is open to academically qualified athletes that have an up to date sports physical. Pre-season practices are currently being held at the Mansfield City Lake Park on the east end of Broadway Street on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Screenings and temperature checks take place at 7 PM at the big pavilion. Workouts run from 7:30 to 8:30 PM. New participants are welcome to attend.