Posted Date: 09/03/2021
Three seasons ago, Mansfield cross country runner Darby Jones took an entire season to score a medal. At the time, most of her freshmen teammates had moved up to the senior high squad for the last race of the year. That left a few extra medals up for grabs in the final junior high race of the season and Jones was elated to get the last one offered.
Fast forward to this past Tuesday afternoon. That same little kid that could barely run a half mile at her first ever cross country practice, was standing center stage in the winner’s circle at the Perryville Mustang Invitational.
Jones took that tiny moment of freshman motivation and turned it into high hopes for the future. Steadfast across the landscape of the past few seasons, Jones ascended in pace and performance. On the final day of August, 2021 the long and lanky senior finally broke loose for her first ever cross country individual victory.
Jones beat all runners in the 55 person senior girls division. Her winning time of 10:04.2 was 9.2 seconds faster than the nearest competitor. The win led to a wealth of Lady Tiger finishers who posted four players inside the Top Ten for the team championship as well.
“Darby has been building for this moment for a long time,” stated Mansfield mentor John Mackey. “Her training schedule this summer has been incredible. Her running form and pace have caught up to her dedication and determination. She deserved the win and we are all so excited for her accomplishment.”
As a team, Mansfield’s senior girls totaled 28 points for first place. Joe T. Robinson cruised into second with 48 points while Pulaski Academy brought home third place with 59 points.
Four Mansfield seniors made the medal stand with placements at first, sixth, seventh, and ninth. After Jones’s first place crossing came Faith Rainwater, McKenzie Griffin, and Hope Rainwater to cover the Lady Tiger windfall.
Faith Rainwater's time was 11:18. Griffin posted a 11:42. Hope Rainwater went at 12:00 even.
Junior Jadelynn Wood (12:20) pushed the pace early but fell short coming down the homestretch. The Tigers second best finisher at last season’s state meet came across in 14th place at the Perry County course.
Senior Katlynn Moore (13:18) was 19th overall and Mansfield’s first displacer.
“We have been anxious to get out and finally compete,” revealed Mackey. “This was a good test to see where we are as a team. Next up we go the full 5K distance at Acorn. That should be a challenge this experienced group should look forward to.”
Mansfield did well in the other divisions as well. The junior boys took second place as a team. The junior girls captured third.
Individually, the younger Tiger squads collected three medals. Laney Wood and Trinity Triska picked up where they left off last season with stellar performances for the girls prep team. Joey Fildes did likewise for the boys group.
Wood ran a terrific race but couldn’t catch Bergman’s Jacey Halitza. Halitza blistered the course with a personal record 9:55.7 for the 2500m race. Wood came in second at 10:37.10. Triska followed close behind her teammate at 11:05.20.
The two Mansfield freshmen followed each other for the silver and bronze medals at second and third places overall.
Tiger teammates Azlynn Stover, Addie Bowman, and Aidan Fildes completed the junior girl scoring. Collectively the top five qualifiers for Mansfield garnered a team score of 54 points for third place among represented teams.
St. Joseph out of Conway won the junior girls event with 33 points. Pulaski Academy took second at 45 points.
Fildes for the Mansfield men was third place overall. He was the lone Tiger to make the medal stand. However, his teammates were in strong support as the group’s combined team score solidly fit them into second place among team rankings.
St Joseph doubled up with the team plaques as they also won the junior boys division at 50 points.
Mansfield’s scoring five for the boys team were in order Fildes, Gunner Williams, Holden Powers, Joseph Carter, and Leland Powell.