For Mansfield, the opportunity to go to Fayetteville and run the same hills as some of the best college and high school teams in the country is a real treat. This year the Tigers took seven hand picked athletes to enjoy the upscale cross country races known as the Chile Pepper Festival.
Competing in the open division high school races were Faith Rainwater, McKenzie Griffin, John Branche, and Ashton Hinkle. For the junior high section, Trinity Triska, Laney Wood, and Jadelynn Wood all performed.
“It’s a real eye opener to see some of the talent on display at this event,” said Mansfield Coach John Mackey. “We make it a trip for invited athletes only. Those that have shown a real proficiency get the honor of representing our squad. It’s an exclusive club and a humbling experience.”
In the senior boys open division race, there were 891 runners at the start. Sophomore John Branche of Mansfield clocked in at 23:07.5 for a middle of the pack placement. Freshman teammate Ashton Hinkle was about 18 seconds behind that for the Tiger men.
Faith Rainwater off the senior girls team was the quickest Lady Tiger to finish. She went 25:53.6 for 246th out of 550 runners. McKenzie Griffin was close behind taking the tape at 26:01.4 for 251st place.
Seventh grade rising star Trinity Triska held her own among 633 junior girls. The newest Tiger talent went 14:17.8 for the two mile course to land in 114th place.
“This is the first time in a long time we took a seventh grader,” announced Mackey. “This year we took two. Both Trinity and Laney (Wood) have been scoring in bunches this season.”
Laney Wood crossed the finish line in 14:38.9 for 147th place. Wood’s sister, freshman Jadelynn Wood, came in 294 at 15:52.4.
“Jadelynn has been sick for two days,” explained the coach. “She wasn’t up to her usual self. She didn’t want to miss this chance to compete. The opportunity really meant something to her.”
Mansfield will rejoin the usual forces in preparation for the hills of Greenwood on October 10. A trip to Van Buren nine days later finishes off the regular season for the Tigers.
A quirk in the schedule puts the regionals ahead of district play this season. Those meets will run October 23 for the Acorn hosted regionals and October 28 for the Elkins hosted conference meet.