With 600 meters to go, Mansfield’s Megan Rose was chasing down three of the region’s best 5K runners at the Southwest Regionals in Acorn on November 2. Trusting her repeat training from the day before, the diminutive Lady Tiger kicked it in to catch two of the three star runners. The result was an individual silver medal for Rose and a regional runner-up plaque for her team.
Alina Homan of Jessieville, currently the third ranked 5K runner in the class 3A state, was in the lead. Faith Hill of Acorn, the second ranked class 1A distance runner and the fifth place finisher at the state finals in 2014, was next. Morgan Fagan, the class 1A state champion from three season’s ago, was step for step with her Acorn teammate. All three had entered the final field heading towards the finish line with Rose bearing down.
The previous day, Rose had completed a workout where she would simulate chasing down runners deep into the race. It was a repeat training session of 600 meters in length against members of the offseason track and volleyball teams.
The non-cross country runners were spaced 50 meters apart giving the junior runner a fresh body to race through the entire 600 meter kick phase. With two minute breaks, Rose repeated the simulation several times to model the action of a closely contested race.
“It must have worked,” expressed John Mackey the coach of the Mansfield cross country teams. “The finish of the race shaped up just like what she had done the day before the meet. Megan looked so confident going into that last section of the course. It was like the Cubs. It was going to happen.”
Homan was in control with about a minute lead. But, it was Hill, Fagan, and Rose bunched together in that order for a hard fought fight for the second place finish.
Homan eventually took the champion’s laurel by 50 seconds. Her lead was too much for the talented, trailing trio to overcome. But, the real race was in that ensuing group anyway.
Rose passed the Acorn pair along the back fence. She exited the woods with a slight lead. From there the determined Mansfield Tiger held off the former state champion on her home course by a mere step.
Homan crossed at 20:55.1 for the win. Rose closed the gap at 21:45.3. Fagan was a step behind at 21:45.9 with Hill fading to fourth at 21:50.5.
“What a way to prepare for the state finals,” beamed Mackey. “A district championship, a regional runner-up, and a come from behind knockout of a state champion; that gives you a lot of confidence going into Hot Springs.”
Rose and company will attend the Arkansas Activities Association State Cross Country Finals on Saturday, November 12. The class 3A women are scheduled to run at 10:45 AM.
At the Regional Finals, Mansfield’s senior girls were sporting it’s largest collection of runners this season. With the 3A-4 District Finals completed four days before, their coach decided to move up the remaining freshmen to forge his state roster a week before the state championships.
Lennon Woods, the conference champion in the junior high division, moved up to compete in her first 5K race. The results were strong. The Tiger ninth grader stayed with the early front runners for a good portion of the race. She faltered somewhat past the midpoint of the race but turned in a tremendous time for her inaugural event.
“Lennon is very talented,” confessed her coach. “She can really leave her mark on this sport if she wants to do so. Think about it. She was right on the All-Star qualifying mark with her first senior high meet.”
Woods was the next to cross the finish line after the highly regarded pair of Acorn Tigers. The Mansfield native had the fifth place time with an incredibly solid time of 23:52.3.
Mansfield teammate Corrina Wesley completed the 3.1 mile equivalent in a season best 26:03.3. It was her goal to reach the 25 minute mark. Her seventh place overall finish was within seconds of the bid.
MHS freshman Delilah McKusker, a midseason entrant onto the senior high team, was the 13th runner to complete the Acorn regional course. The Lady Tiger surprise rounded the two loop venue in 28:27.
Sisters Jessica George and Bree George came in consecutive order to McKusker at 14th and 15th position. The younger of the two siblings, freshman Jessica, was timed at 28:45. Her junior class sister, Breanna, clicked the clock at 29:46.
Alyssa Berry, the Lady Tigers’ number two runner for most of the season, did not participated because of injury. The sophomore strained her knee stepping into a hole during a long training run on the Monday before the meet.
Acorn won the senior girls’ team title with 25 points. Mansfield was second at 34 points.