As a member of the Southeastern Conference, the University of Arkansas holds strict policies as to the entrance procedures for events held in its facilities. As such, the 2019 ATCA high school indoor track and field state championships held at the Randal Tyson Track Complex in Fayetteville was slow to begin and late to run.
Over 800 athletes and 1500 entires were greeted Friday, Feb 1 for the running of the class 1A-4A state indoor track titles. Doors to the championship sight opened at 4 PM with meet events to follow at 5 PM. That was the plan anyway.
According to University policy ever bag must be checked for security purposes before admission is allowed. A good policy indeed with today’s climate of crazy leaking into everyday life. However, it was impossible for 800 athletes and hundreds of fans to pass inspection by 4 security checkers within that small window of time provided to the ATCA officials.
Consequently, start times for the first events were delayed by at least an hour and with the long enter list the meet lasted until 1 AM.
“I’m glad the policy is exists,” stated Mansfield head coach John Mackey. “The safety of our kids is important. But, the late start and the extremely large entry pool made for a really long night.”
“Our kids and parents knew it was gonna be a late night,” expressed the coach. “Late nights are expected for the state finals in track. This was just the longest our indoor meet has ever taken since we started going about 15 years ago.”
The long hours didn’t bother Scott County neighbor Waldron. The class 4A football school that dropped down to run 3A track, won the class 3A state indoor championship for both the girls and boys divisions.
Mansfield’s girls were 10th this indoor season. Since 2014, they have won 7 indoor state titles and have a pair of runner-up trophies as well. The Mansfield men finished 11th.
Despite the long hours and Waldron’s dominating performance, Mansfield had it’s share of success at the track meet.
Sophomore Renden Emery and freshman Faith Rainwater scored the highest among the 33 athletes Mansfield took to compete.
Emery finished with a bronze medal in the boys high jump. The tenth grader also competed in the 4x800m relay, triple jump, 60m hurdles, and 4x400m relay.
Rainwater captured bronze as well as the third place distance runner in the women’s 3200m run. She was also part of a 4x800m relay team that registered a DNF.
“We did not finish the race because of a fall,” shared Mackey. “Our lead leg, Faith’s twin sister Hope, fell on the second lap in a big pile up.” A tight crowd on the curve pushed her to the inside where she stepped on the raised curb and went down.
“It’s disappointing for her and the team,” continued the coach. “Hope worked really hard to make that team and build it for success. Unusual things happen sometimes.”
The relay squad that coach referred to included both Rainwater sisters, McKenzie Griffin, and Josefin Lofving.
Delilah McKusker, Shelby Cole, Harleigh Mars, and Lennon Woods just missed the top three medal stand in the women’s 4x400m relay. They came in fourth by a few seconds despite Woods’ valiant close as anchor.
Brooke Wright reached top 8 status at the women’s shot put ring. The sophomore arrived at the U of A campus to throw the implement after playing a MHS basketball game earlier in the evening at West Fork.
Freshman Sadie Roberts managed the same maneuver by playing in the junior girls basketball game at West Fork and making it to the high jump venue to compete on the senior girls track team. Roberts cleared the same height as the bronze medalist but ended her performance with a tie for fifth place because of misses.
Mansfield senior teammate Haylee Buckner was the player Roberts tied with at a clearance of 4’ 8” in the high jump.
“Because of the timing of certain events, those two were the only basketball players that could do both,” said Mackey. “We just couldn’t get it worked out for others so most of the dual sports kids remained at basketball.”
Newcomer Sara Willadsen surprised in the sprints for the Lady Tigers by winning her heats in the 60m dash and 200m dash. Although the times did not make the top 8, it gave the squad an idea of her abilities.
Shawn Brown from the men’s squad posted the highest result for the Tigers in the shot put. Again, the results were not up to top 8 state standards but were significant in the freshman thrower’s progress towards the future.
Will Meadows gave the Tigers a spark by scoring in the triple jump. He showed flashes in the 60m dash, and 200m dash as well as did teammate Randal Claude.
Freshman Ethan Chapman ran the fastest leg on the 4x800m relay. Artem Zirka was solid leading the way for the Tiger distance core.
Blayne Bryant and Victor Steffen both set personal records in their runs at the 400m dash. The pair also joined Emery and Chapman in the concluding “after-midnight mile relay”.