Some members of the 2017 Mansfield senior girls track team take a moment to try on their new track gear as they ready for the upcoming outdoor season. The squad members raised money for their new uniforms and had a chance to debut the new look at the Booneville Bearcat Relays.
The wait is finally over For the Mansfield Lady Tiger track team. After a disappointing showing at the 2017 Indoor State Finals back in early February, the team hopes to regain a measure of credibility with the start of their outdoor season.
Hobbled a bit by the flu and other extenuating circumstances, Mansfield fell out of the top ten for the first time in team history at the combined 1A-4A indoor competition. Now the team looks to rebound with the help of a refocused group of seniors and an assortment of underclassmen for the spring outdoor schedule.
Seniors Eden Jones, Makiah Holmes, Fayth Schwartz, and Audrey Walker are full time Mansfield track athletes that hold the key to the upcoming Lady Tiger success. They along with fellow senior Whittney Clark, a dual sport (softball and track) athlete, have the most experience as well as the most number of trips to a state final.
As of press time, the four full time senior track stars were to have opened their outdoor season with a trip to Booneville on Tuesday, March 7. Along with the other full time track participants on the team, the group’s Bearcat Relays attendance was to be their only non-qualifying event of the spring.
Up to seven softball players that crossover to track including Clark where schedule for diamond duty the day of the Booneville meet.
“Our girls were disappointed in their overall rankings at the indoor meet,” said long time Mansfield mentor John Mackey. “With Audrey (Walker) getting the flu, Eden (Jones) recovering from a knee issue, and the basketball players limited to a few practices; the indoor meet was a tough row to hoe.”
“I think our kids will recover,” continued the coach. “Our players are resilient. We typically find ways to maximizes strengths and sacrifice for each other. The outdoor season gives us a chance to regroup and make another push for a title.”
Walker was the Lady Tigers MVP last season. After learning a pair of new events in her junior campaign, the college recruit is the only member of the squad with an individual state title on her resume. The soon to be graduate won the 2016 state outdoor finals in the 300m hurdles.
Walker, on her way to that state title last season, learned the hurdles and high jump as new additions to her already busy meet docket. Previously, the senior Tiger was utilized as a relay specialist and 400m runner. In her break out junior year, Walker finished in the top eight at the state 300m hurdles, 100m hurdles, and high jump.
Jones has scored in the state finals in all three of her previous seasons. She has also attended two Meet of Champions track meets. Once she went to the MOC as a member of the 4x800m relay team, and another time as a high jumper. She will continue both targeted events and most likely step into a sprint relay role for the first time in her career.
Schwartz, a pole vault specialist, scored at last year’s state finals and again this year at the 2017 indoor championships. This year, she is trying her hops at the long jump pit to increase her potential service to the team.
Holmes made the state meet last year as a member of the 4x100m relay team. She was a blink of an eye away from scoring at this year’s indoor competition in the 60m hurdles.
According to her coach, Holmes brings the most versatility. The senior can perform well in three different field events, all three relays, and both hurdle races. As the coach sees it, she is good at too many things. Narrowing that focus is the challenge that coach and player are both happy to resolve.
Clark has been valuable in a multitude of areas as well. Limited to a handful of outings because of a starting role on the softball team, the senior has enjoyed success mostly at the pole vault pit, triple jump runway, and the 4x400m relay. She was one of a ten Lady Tigers to medal at this year’s February final.
Joining Mansfield’s fulltime roster is a pair of juniors in Megan Rose and Corrina Wesley. Both have earned previous trips to post season competition.
Rose is the most decorated of the two athletes with multiple cross country and track awards to her credit. She was both the 2015 and 2016 Mansfield Cross Country Player of the Year. For the track team, she covers the most distance of any Lady Tiger.
This year, Rose plans on a heavy load by racing in the 4x800m relay, 1600m run, 800m run, and the 3200m run.
“If anyone can accomplish the feat it’s Megan,” stated Mackey. “The longer the race, the better she is. She loves running so much, it’s almost scary.”
Wesley is a jumps specialist with the triple jump venue locked into her primary sights. She made the 3A state meet last year with a personal record on her final jump of the 3A Region 1 West District Meet.
Wesley can run a variety of events around the oval as well. She has increased her stamina for the long or middle distance races with equal ability. This year she will be counted on to help in two to three relays as well as the 400m dash.
Sophomores abound on the Tiger roster. Alyssa Berry (distance) Haylee Buckner (high jump), Hailey Byers (100m), Emily Parish (pole vault), and Allie Willsey (jumps) make up the full time tenth graders.
Sophomores that plan on cameo appearances due to softball obligations include Brooklyn Carlton (hurdles, jumps, relays), Macy Davis (hurdles, throws), Riley Shoell (throws, relays), Kyla Sysakayavong (throws, sprints), and Rylea Weaver (throws).
Senior Makayla Bolton attended the indoor state finals for the first time this year. She is a full time softball player but has plans to make the outdoor track roster later in the spring.