Two girls and one boy off the Mansfield High School cross country team found their way to the River Valley All-Stars for post season competition. The elite 5K run for standout locals gave the Mansfield trio a chance to compete after the state meet.
Mansfield natives Megan Rose, Lennon Woods, and Devon Pyles not only attended the November 19 spectacle but they excelled.
Rose, a member of the Mansfield junior class, was the individual runner-up at the RVAS women’s portion of the cross country meet. Woods, just a freshman, climbed to fourth place in the women’s standings with a personal best 5K time. Then, Pyles crossed in 15th place on the men’s side.
The River Valley All-Stars has become an annual event established just a few short seasons ago by long time Magazine coach Randy Bryan. It was Bryan’s vision and forward thinking to promote the sport of cross country. As such, he developed a qualifying system based upon 5K times throughout the season. By those numbers, 30 of the top female runners and 30 of the top male runners within a generous radius of a multi-county circle were given a chance to compete one more time after the state finals.
“Many of the elite local runners are done after the state finals,” explained John Mackey, the cross country coach at Mansfield. “If you had an individual win state they could move on and compete at the Arkansas-Oklahoma All-Star Meet. Otherwise their season was done. Coach Bryan saw a need for those that didn’t win state but were still high quality performers. That’s how the River Valley All-Stars began.”
Since the specialty event’s inception, Mansfield has had a steady line of runners make the squad over the last few years. Last Saturday’s contest saw three more names added to the list.
Rose, who appeared on the list the previous two seasons, was making her third consecutive appearance. Pyles, a junior like Rose, accepted his second All-Star bid. Woods made the team in her first year of eligibility.
Rose and Woods made the women’s squad by meeting the 23 minute standard. Pyles earned his invitation by hitting the 19 minute barrier.
At the earlier morning a-list contest, it was Rose that shook off an aching muscle in her lower leg to post a new season best of 21:32. Her mark was 10 seconds faster than her October 18 time along the same Rattler course. It was 13 seconds faster than her runner-up finish at the 2016 Regional Finals.
Woods had only run one competitive 5K race before her name appeared on the short list to compete at the All-Stars. Her fourth place finish at the Southwest Regionals put her into position to make the RVAS squad. It wasn’t until after the state finals that she learned her regional score stood within the 30 player limit.
“Lennon was on the fringe of making the squad,” expressed her coach. “We waited until the following Monday after state to learn she was invited. The selection committee made the right decision. She ran her best race all year with a new personal record 22:38.”
Pyles also made the list because of his Southwest Regional mark. That reconfigured Acorn course afforded him a 19:41 clocking to inch onto the All-Star ticket. His best finish at the Hot Springs finals the following week, and a 19:59 mark at the All-Stars gave Pyles a strong finish to his penultimate season.
“I’m proud of all three of our All-Stars,” gleamed Mackey. “They work really hard at a sport many people don’t get to see. They have done Mansfield proud as did all our runners this season. It was a satisfying end to a productive season.”