Senior Megan Rose (right) passes the “golden baton” to sophomore Delilah McKusker as part of the Mansfield Lady Tiger track tradition.
Traditions have run deep when it comes to the Mansfield Lady Tiger track team. Years ago a small gesture at an impromptu breakfast lead to a more formal event now known as “senior breakfast”. Lately another custom has come into fashion for the ritualistic teammates. That has been the “passing of the baton” at the final supper.
So it went when the Mansfield senior girls track team ventured to the 2018 class 3A state championships on May 1. Those Lady Tigers that advanced that far found themselves eating their last meal together at the conclusion of the meet. When the last of the bread was broken and the reflective stories of a satisfying season came to rest, there was one more piece of business. The famed “golden baton” needed to change hands.
Years ago, Mansfield’s senior girls team used a golden glossed relay baton for it’s district and state finals. The baton as it turned out found its way around the track in the fastest times of any other participating team. It was a dream night prompting team members to superstitiously call upon their “lucky golden baton” for all relays thereafter.
Mr. Dave Otto, an avid track fan who’s daughter Jessica happened to be a part of many of those championship relays, captured the lucky stick after the 2010 state title run. Wishing to impart its power onto the next generations of Lady Tigers, Dave secretly began allowing genuine track athletes to use and care for the prestigious baton.
He entrusted the golden stick to a self-motivated, team-oriented, track loving Lady Tiger for safe keeping. That player who was typically a 4x100m or 4x400m relay runner had to keep the golden garnish at all times and bring it to every meet.
Over the years, it has been passed down from a graduating senior to a younger teammate. Just a year ago, Audrey Walker of the Mansfield class of 2017 held the stick. With guidance from Otto, she saw fit to will the baton to a 4x800m relay runner. That recipient was Megan Rose.
As part of her responsibility, Rose was instructed to find a new custodian before her own graduation in May of this year. So, on the night of the 2018 state outdoor championships Rose made her designated decision. The pass went to sophomore Delilah McKusker.
After the team’s final meal together, Rose informed those in the room that the selection was made. Sharing the baton’s history, customs, and caretaker responsibilities Rose made the open pass.
Mixing words with fellow senior Corrina Wesley, Rose and her teammate described McKusker as the logical choice. Their talk revealed McKusker’s hard work, full heart, and unparalleled desire to be the best. With a background in both sprint relay’s as well as a side talent in the 300m hurdles, a speciality of Jessica Otto by the way, McKusker accepted the responsibility for the upcoming 2019 season.
“These traditions seem to gain a life of their own,” stated Mansfield track coach John Mackey. “I’m glad to be a part of the past as well as these new beginnings. We’ve had some awesome players take this responsibility very seriously. I’m thankful for all the hands that have passed this golden baton.”