Posted Date: 07/14/2021
Piggybacking on the most successful cross country season in Mansfield history, members of the school’s long distance team are gearing up for another year.
Beginning on Monday, July 12, members of the Mansfield junior and senior high teams will gather for team training sessions at the Mansfield City Lake. The experienced Tiger runners as well as any newcomers are set to start the group running sessions at 7 PM.
“We are excited to capitalize on the momentum produced by last year’s state runner-up trophy,” said Mansfield Coach John Mackey. “The high school girls basically return all the top scorers off that state runner-up team. It will be a senior heavy team with loads of experience. Both junior high teams have their top runners back as well, and both are coming off district championships.”
The team's typical summer schedule will be to gather at the large pavilion at the City Lake for team runs on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays until August 5. There will be three special trips planned as well.
The group will warm up together before beginning individually prescribed running routines according to fitness level.
“There will be several seniors that are used to high mileage and intensity,” noted the long time Mansfield coach. “There will be seventh grade beginners and mid-level runners as well. We cater to all individual needs and start players at a rate that matches their ability. What’s cool about cross country running is that everyone encourages each other no matter the level.”
Mansfield senior Darby Jones was one of those beginner runners just a few seasons ago. According to the coach, she could barely run a half mile without stopping when she first started. Now Jones is a two time All-Star and one of the runner’s Mansfield will be counting on to make a big impact on the season.
“Darby has become a real success story,” bragged Mackey. “She has transformed into a legitimate contender at the district and now state level. She’s addicted to running and puts in the work it takes to be good. Just this last weekend she finished fourth in her age group (15-19) at the Greenwood Freedom Festival 5K.”
Jones finished the recent road race in 22:22. It was according to ar.milesplit.com her fastest 5K time since setting a personal record of 23:57 last October.
Jones wasn’t the only Mansfield cross country runner using the Greenwood race as part of their pre-season training. Eighth grader Josiah Fildes off the junior boys team also competed.
It was Fildes' first time running the longer distance in competition. Last year’s top Mansfield junior boy typically runs the shorter 2 mile events.
At Greenwood, Fildes posted a time of 24:25.5 for fifth place in his age group (10 - 14).
The returning seniors for Mansfield are Jones, McKenzie Griffin, Katlynn Moore, Faith Rainwater, and Hope Rainwater. John Branche is the lone senior of the mens team.
Griffin and Faith Rainwater have both been MHS cross country players of the year in past seasons. Rainwater is a two time All-State selection and two time River Valley Best of Preps award winner.
Alyssa James and Jadelynn Wood return as members of the junior class for the senior high Lady Tigers. Wood is a former Farm Bureau All-Star and finished in the top 12 at last year’s state meet with a 23:53.71 clocking.
Laney Wood and Trinity Triska were the top runners off the Mansfield junior girls team. The two incoming freshmen have twice received All-District and All-Region honors in past seasons. They are supported by returning freshmen Addison Bowman, Aidan Fildes, Summer Frazier, Rileigh Parker, and Azlynn Stover.
The top returning junior boys for MMS are Joseph Carter, Josiah Fildes, Jonah Martin, and Rylan Nichols. The four eighth graders combined to win not only last season’s district cross country title, they also won track’s district 4x800m relay title.
Early sign ups show Mansfield should expect several new faces on the long distance teams. According to the coach, several athletes, especially in the lower grades have shown interest in joining.
“We encourage any eligible Mansfield player to give cross country a try,” announced Mackey. “If they are brand new, they can bring their sports physical to the first practice and we can get them a practice schedule and workout routine.”
Mansfield cross country athletes have been following individual workout plans since the end of school. Those plans will transition into team oriented sessions as soon as the Arkansas Activities Association dead period ends on July 10.