The battle was on at the 3A Region 1 West Conference Championships in Mansfield on April 25. Host Mansfield was riding a winning streak of district titles in the women’s division that was a decade plus two years old. The weather was uncooperative. The league competition was balanced. The Lady Tiger talent was stretched too thin.
The monumental task of holding a trophy that was nearly as old as the Tiger track itself was just too much this time around. It’s as if that huge weight just jumped onto the back of the Lady Tigers unexpectedly and at the wrong time.
Twenty meters away from the finish line in the 4x400m relay, tightening muscles and pure exhaustion literally took Mansfield to the ground. Greenland won. Another team passed for second, and suddenly a four point swing determined the title as Mansfield limped across the line in third.
Greenland took down the Mansfield Lady Tigers for the 2018 3A Region 1 West District Championship. The curiously close 168 to 166 finish left the MHS women holding a runner-up conference plaque for the first time in a dozen years.
Mansfield painted itself into a corner as lack of depth showed in the early going. Earning no points in the pole vault pulled an uncommon thread through the Tiger fabric. Atypical results rendered from rain wrecked field event venues accounted for a lump of poor performances. An overall lack of speed joined by a failure to fill every position all loomed large towards the dismantling of the dynasty.
Despite all the surface dwelling troubles, the home town defending champs somehow climbed into a two point lead before the final race. The Mansfield 300m hurdlers gave the team hope with a second, third, and sixth place finish. The Mansfield 3200m runners buckled down to flip a tepid 200m dash by winning first in the long distance run and placing three others in the top seven.
“We fought hard for a lead but there were points left on the table,” explained Coach John Mackey. “We just didn’t have the bodies to throw into some of those empty spaces. We stretched our kids really thin trying to fill 68 starting positions. We just never really overcame those unexpected defections before the season started.”
So, as it were the 4x400m relay became the unwanted elephant in the stadium. Mansfield would have to catch or stay close to Greenland’s top relay team in the final race to continue the streak.
Mansfield could force at least a share of the title if they could stay within one place of the hard to handle Pirates. For nearly all of the entire relay race, that’s what looked to be happening.
Elkins was hot in pursuit after Mansfield pulled into second place behind Greenland. As the Tiger anchor closed down the final stretch, each grinding step seemed to get heavier and heavier.
Mansfield’s last girl showed unmistakable resolve giving ever ounce of energy into that final run. An unfortunate misstep upon languished legs planted the passionate player face down on the track mere meters from the finish line. Eventually, she wrestled her way back into a upright position to finish the race in third place.
“It just wasn’t in the cards,” said the Mansfield coach. “Our go to girl gave it everything she had. She was amazingly tough but just too tried with all the other things she had to do on the night.”
“We simply needed other players to get out of their comfort zone and show a similar toughness earlier in the meet,” continued Mackey. “We found ourselves in an unfamiliar position. It’s been a long time since we had to drag the weight of the meet around in that last lap. The last group to do it was a bunch of eighth graders that also lost. A year later they started this whole conference winning streak with eight state titles to boot.”
“I’m proud of what we brought to the table this season,” said an emotionally spent Mackey. “Our two seniors just didn’t have enough help. They put a lot into this program, and their place in it is not diminished.”
Senior Megan Rose won the 3200m run. She also won the 1600m run. Freshman Danielle Lillie won the 100m dash. She was also a second place finisher in the 100m hurdles, and long jump.
Delilah McKusker finished second in the 300m hurdles. Corrina Wesley, Alyssa Berry, Lennon Woods, and Rose won the 4x800m relay.
Addison Goetz, Hailey Walker, McKusker, and Lillie finished second in the 4x100m relay. Freshman Brooke Wright won the discus.
Because of their top two order of finish, the nine just mentioned Mansfield players qualified to the state outdoor finals. They also collected All-District honors for their advanced status.
Also scoring for Mansfield was Haylee Buckner in the high jump, Haylie Burns in the shot put, Janna Coplin in the discus, Jessica George in the 1600m run, Madison Nelson in the 1600m run,and Miracle Pettigrew in the 800m.