Four consecutive trips to the state finals in cross country equaled for consecutive improvements in performance. Mansfield senior Devon Pyles did just that as of last Friday when he attended his final state championships at Hot Springs.
Pyles, the lone runner for many seasons for the Mansfield senior boys cross country team, ran his final championship 5K this past week. The senior left his best for last as his time improved 2 minutes and 21 seconds over the four year span.
This time around, Pyles turned in a solid 19:35.30 along the 3.1 mile infield of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs. Just four seasons ago, the then lanky freshman could only muster a pedestrian 21:56.70 over the same up and down course.
“It’s good to see an athlete make progress over his career,” said Tiger cross country coach John Mackey. “Devon worked hard this year. He saw improvements all along the way. It was a good way to finish his season.”
The 19:35.30 clocking placed Pyles in 26th position out of 162 state runners. It was the second fastest mark out of all runners from his home 3A-4 West Conference. Only freshman phenomenon Roc Webb of Lamar ran a faster time from this league roster.
The mark produced by Pyles was within 10 spots of All-State status. The Arkansas Activities Association recognizes the fastest top 10% of the state finishers with such distinction.
This season Pyles was not alone as a representative of the Mansfield Tigers. Netherlands exchange student Joris Felius made his first and last showing at the 3A state finals. The eleventh grade runner finished about a minute behind his teammate.
Felius completed the course in 20:27.8 for 46th place. The measure was close to the new runner’s average this season. On three different occasions this year the distance specialist ran faster times. Two of those marks were on flatter courses.
Felius clocked an All-District type performance at the District Finals two weeks before state. That time was 19:49.99. A week prior to that he ran a career best 18:49.00 at Magazine’s Rattler Run.
Early indications show that both Tiger men meet qualifying standards to make the River Valley All-Star squad. The pair will join the top 25 runners from multiple classifications around the River Valley Area for a final 5K spin at Magazine’s home course on November 11.