(Above) Mansfield’s McKenzie Griffin, Harleigh Mars, and Faith Rainwater lead an early session before the start of regular cross country practice. Hope Rainwater (hidden back row left), John Branche, Logan Cravey, and Lita Hecox take part as well. The Tiger athletes are enjoying the newly completed City Lake paved trails.
The workout calendar prompted individuals members of the Mansfield cross country team to prep for the fall season beginning on May 28. Team training sessions then cranked up on July 9 with nightly running routines at the Mansfield City Lake. After practicing the first few days of August, the Tigers took a pause from preseason workloads. Now, a short recovery period ensues before school starts and fall training kicks up in earnest.
According to Mansfield’s head coach John Mackey, as many as 28 athletes showed up for summer cross country sessions throughout the month of July. That number dwindled a bit as football, volleyball, and cheerleading began to take focus.
“It was a productive summer,” Mackey insisted. “There were some inconsistencies with a few players but the majority were very faithful. In fact, there were several that would show up an hour early just to get in extra miles. A rivalry was brewing between players trying to log the most miles.”
Mackey credits Faith Rainwater, McKenzie Griffin, and Harleigh Mars for initiating the early bird sessions.
“Those three freshmen are really motivated to be good,” Mackey proclaimed. “They were trying to get in the 25 mile per week range so they just started showing up early for two to three mile runs before practice even began.”
Ten total freshmen logged training time this summer. Each of the ten met or exceeded training requirements that qualified them for a reward trip by the end of the early preseason practices.
Among those ninth graders was Steven Perez. Ranked as the number two distance runner off of last season’s junior boys team, Perez has shown flashes of becoming the top Tiger for this year’s squad.
“Steven’s had a really good summer,” Mackey bragged. “He’s logged the most miles among the boys throughout our team workouts. On the last day alone he knocked out a seven mile run.”
We need him to put in the extra time on his own like a Hannah Holstein, Megan Rose, or Devon Pyles. There’s no telling how efficient he could be. We’re really excited to see him race this season.”
Close in athletic proximity is fellow freshman Ethan Chapman. Last season’s number one junior high runner has been playing a bit of the catchup game after missing about a week and a half because of a family trip.
“Ethan is coming on strong,” the coach stated. “But if you asked him, he’d probably say he’s a little behind of where he wants to be.”
Ethan and Steven really push one another. They’re excellent training partners.
John Branche has made the most improvement among the boys according to the coach. Shelby Cole showed similar strides among the junior high girls. Both hail from the freshmen class.
Dru Buckner, Darby Jones, and Hope Rainwater round out the ninth graders.
Janna Coplin made the most gains among the senior high runners. As a first year cross country athlete, Coplin reduced times and increased stamina by significant margins.
The most consistent among the senior high athletes and the player logging the most mileage among her peers was Lennon Woods. A junior, Woods returns with the most experience among the high school players. She was the junior high conference champion two seasons ago and has already earned two River Valley All-Star appearances.
Fellow eleventh grader Delilah McKusker rivals Woods among the senior high players with the highest summer attendance. McKusker attended Greenwood last fall and missed Mansfield’s 2017 cross country season.
Jessica George, Addison Goetz, and Alyssa Berry round out the potential senior girl’s roster.
Renden Emery is the only sophomore on the squad. He joins the team after an award winning track season last spring.
Olivia Bouse, just an eighth grader, had a strong camp early in the summer. She is among three players trying to juggle cross country and volleyball through the fall schedule. Cole and Lita Hecox are the others.
Eight graders Shasta Christopher, Logan Cravey, Ashton Hinkle, and Trinity Woods all logged multiple days with summer lake runs.
Seventh grader Raine Hecox was the only athlete to register perfect attendance at the team trials.
Mansfield opens their cross country season on September 8 in Fort Smith.