It was her mission to make the state track meet. Given an opportunity to go for the state qualifying standard in the 3200m run at Alma on March 31, Mansfield junior Megan Rose rose to the occasion.
“What do you think I need to run this first lap in?”, asked the somewhat anxious distance runner of her coach just before the race. “What do you think that first half mile should be?”, continued the normally quite runner.
“Megan had a lot of questions,” said Mansfield Tiger head track coach John Mackey. “She’s not normally that chatty before a race. I think she really wanted to make this race special and was giving it some extra mental reps before the gun.”
The target time for the two-mile equivalent set by the Arkansas Activities Association for class 3A runners was 13:11.44. For her career, Rose’s lifetime best was 13:22.07 established at the 2016 McDonalds Relays “Battle of the Blades”.
A new personal record and a guaranteed trip to the class 3A state championships was what laid in store for Mansfield’s premier distance runner at the Leonard Daniel Memorial Airedale Relays.
From the pow of the gun to the stomp of her last step, Rose ran exactly 12 minutes 54.29 seconds. It was indeed a personal record. It was indeed a free ticket to the Prescott hosted state meet on May 2. It was indeed a moment to relish.
Rose knocked off nearly 30 seconds from her previous 3200m race best. She undercut the AAA qualifying standard by nearly 20 seconds. Yes, call it all good things for a little girl with big dreams.
This season the vibe around Rose and her rising star has been exponential. The two-time Mansfield cross country athlete of the year has dripped dedication and reveled in routine.
“We changed her practice and challenged her with more college caliber workouts,” shared Mackey. “But, mostly it’s what she has done to transform herself. She watches her calories, counts every step, and has developed a killer kick. She’s put in the individual time away from the track to make her a recognized runner.”
Rose had some unexpected help around the Alma track. Magazine coach Brandon Bryan told his sophomore two-miler, Lauren Ryan, to lock onto Rose’s pace and ride it to her own class 2A state qualifier.
So, Rose and Ryan took off step for step for at least the first mile. The Mansfield runner came across the first 400 meters in 1:24 with the Rattler on her hip. The clock showed Rose running 2 seconds faster than her opening lap in the earlier contested 1600m.
At 800 meters, Rose was still in fast mode with a 3 minute count. By the end of the first mile the determined runner was at 6:22. Ryan was still step for step as the two battled the course not each other.
“I knew she had a chance at that point,” explained Mackey. “Her first mile was only 4 seconds slower than the 6:18.57 she just ran. That 1600m run by the way was another new record for Megan.”
Never completing a lap slower than 1:42, Rose put herself into prime position to make the state mark. Pulling away from Ryan at this point the two small school athletes still chased big school runners from Prairie Grove, Fayetteville, Siloam Springs, and Greenwood.
“I wasn’t sure after lap seven,” said Rose. “I just kept going hoping I had the right time.”
By the elated look on her face and by the double fist pump action of her arms at the finish, it was obvious Rose’s uncertainty was answered. Her mom, dad, grandmother, coach, and teammates swarmed moments later.
Ryan joined the hug party 19 seconds later as she too accomplished mission impossible with a 13:14.24 clocking.
Rose was sixth overall at the Airedale 3200m race. Ryan finished seventh blasting her qualifying line by 38 seconds.