Posted Date: 12/01/2020
Despite their respective seasons being in the rearview mirror for nearly a month, accolades honoring the accomplishments of Mansfield fall sport athletes and coaches continue to stack up.
The latest postseason honors were announced over Thanksgiving weekend.
On consecutive mornings, lists of Arkansas River Valley High School Sports All-Area Volleyball and Cross Country Teams were released. Prominent on the recent publications were Mansfield senior Brooke Wright and junior Faith Rainwater.
Wright, the 2020 Class 2A State Volleyball Tournament MVP, appeared on the All-Area volleyball roster issued on Thanksgiving morning. The Lady Tiger middle blocker helped lead her team to an undefeated season and the 2020 State Championship.
Already this past season Wright earned All-District, All-Conference, and All-State recognition. Furthermore, she was selected an All-Star nominee out of the 2A West volleyball conference. If selected, she could potentially play in this summer’s AHSCA All-Star Game.
Out of Mansfield’s 21 victories against 0 defeats this past season, Wright was named the MaxPreps Player of the Match seven times. That number includes the Most Valuable Player award she received in the 2A state finals as the Tigers defeated Lavaca in a 3-0 sweep for the state championship trophy.
As a three year starter Wright played in 243 sets for Mansfield. For her high school career she had 793 kills, 119 solo blocks, 141 aces, and a .342 hitting percentage.
Rainwater, Mansfield’s 2-time All-State long distance racer, landed on the All-Area cross country register. That exclusive catalog with only six listed members was released on Black Friday.
Rainwater was the Tiger’s top finisher at the Arkansas Activities Association 2020 State Cross Country State Championships. The diminutive racer posted an eighth place 5K time of 22:55.30 to help lead her team to the class 2A State Runner-up Trophy.
This was the second time the eleventh grade runner had made the River Valley All-Area team. Two seasons ago as a freshman, Rainwater made the team known then as the Best of River Valley Prep All-Stars, after a spectacular performance at the 2018 state finals.
Last year as a sophomore, Rainwater was slowed by a mid-season foot injury that kept her from her typical high standards. Although it still was an award winning season, statistically it fell below the Best of Preps criteria.
In 2020, Rainwater rebounded well earning All-District, Southwest All-Region, and Farm Bureau River Valley All-Star status. She was also the Lady Tiger’s top scorer in eight of eleven meets.
Although individually gifted, the two Mansfield athletes furthered their skill development under the guidance of two award winning coaches.
Tiger head coach Kaylie Pyles was hired as Wright’s volleyball mentor soon after Pyles’ own stellar high school playing career for Mansfield and later as a standout for Henderson State University. Being named Mansfield’s head coach in 2018 meant Pyles would be Wright’s head coach for the senior’s entire high school career.
As the two paralleled in time, Mansfield quickly re-established its presence as a marque volleyball program. The meteoric ascent gave reason for volleyball coaches across the western district to take notice of Pyles' efforts. As a result, Pyles was unanimously selected the 2A West Conference Coach of the Year as the driving force behind this season’s conference and state championships.
As extra topping, let it be known Mansfield’s head coach not only orchestrated an undefeated high school season, she also oversaw an unblemished junior high record as well. Mansfield’s junior Tigers never lost a set this past season. They finished as the undisputed and rarely challenged conference champions.
Rainwater has only known one cross country coach since she started the sport in junior high. Long time mentor John Mackey who will be completing his 36th year of coaching at the end of the school year, added the MHS cross country program to his list of coaching duties when his latest protegee was in the sixth grade.
The veteran coach who has won multiple state and conference championships in track and field, had never secured a cross country trophy from the state finals until this year. Backed behind Rainwater’s recent reign along with her talented core of teammates, Mackey was tabbed this year’s 2A-4 Conference Cross Country Coach of the Year.
Mackey’s distance teams this past season won the junior boys, junior girls, and senior girls district cross country championships. His senior girls placed second at the Arkansas State Cross Country Championships to bring home the class 2A state runner-up trophy. Finally, the coach served on the Farm Bureau River Valley All-Star Cross Country selection committee and participated as its host and meet director.
The Arkansas River Valley High School Sports Award was formerly known as the Best of River Valley Preps All-Stars. The sports recognition program merged with other nationally recognized awards programs across 27 states. On the cusp of last spring’s Covid-19 shutdown, the Prep All-Stars awards show transitioned from a local in-person formal banquet to a nationally televised online production.
This year’s awards presentation will again be an online affair scheduled for an early June broadcast. If it follows last year’s script, award winners will be listed by sport with nationally renowned sports figures such as Patrick Mahomes and Bill Bilichick announcing players of the year for each state.
The Arkansas River Valley High School Sports All-Area Teams were generated exclusively through the observations from a panel of local sports reporters and executives from the Times Record. Only All-Area tennis, volleyball, and cross country teams have been announced so far for this 2020-2021 school year.
Post season honors continue for Mansfield. Pictured are Tiger Volleyball player Brooke Wright and Coach Kaylie Pyles two of four recently honored Mansfield products.