It was hot! Plain and simple, the temperature at the UAFS/Fort Smith Cross Country Invitational on September 7 reached a point where Northside officials cut the distance of the final two races in half to protect the players.
Despite the heat, Mansfield’s overall medal count reached the equivalent of a touchdown and an extra point kick.
Lady Tigers Faith Rainwater, Darby Jones, and McKenzie Griffin handled the heat as well as anyone in a Mansfield uniform. The sophomore trio crossed in consecutive order at fourth, fifth, and sixth places among small school competition to begin the day’s bounty.
Fellow sophomore Ethan Chapman from the MHS senior high men’s team took the next reward with an eighth place finish of his 5K race. Soon after, three MJH girls got into the scoring action.
Mansfield seventh grader Trinity Triska led that trifecta with a fourth place finish. She was followed by fellow seventh grader Laney Wood and freshman Jadelynn Wood. The sister act crossed at seventh and eighth place among the 1A-4A division.
“We handled the heat pretty well,” said Mansfield coach John Mackey. “We saw a college athlete go down and at least one high school player succumb to the hot conditions. Our kids seemed to handle it well enough.”
By the conclusion of the college races, the on field temperature reached into the mid 80’s Fahrenheit. The senior girls’ event began in that moderate temperature range but fell victim to a hefty increase by the end.
The senior boys took off as temperatures felt like the upper 90’s. Just after, word came down from the Forth Smith athletic department to cut the junior high races down from a two mile distance to a one mile sprint.
“It was a good call,” recognized Mackey. “We just didn’t know of the switch until the race was already in progress. Our top junior girl was pretty annoyed because she went out in a two mile pace not a one mile rhythm. It cost her a higher position.”
Despite the switch, Mansfield junior girls squad came away with the runner-up plaque in the team scoring. Farmington, a class 4A power, rallied for the win.
The Lady Tiger youth movement scored with Triska, L. Wood, J. Wood, Maylei Rogers (17th), and Meghan Emery (20th). Alyssa James and Lita Hecox served as the team’s first two blockers.
Mansfield’s senior girls didn’t place as a team despite their high order of individual finishes. The group failed to field a required five member team. The remaining roster was intentionally DNP because of a rash of injuries.
Sophomore John Branche from the Tiger’s mens team had his best 5K race of his young career. He timed out at 23:17.9 for 19th place. Junior Renden Emery came in at 26:49.9 for 36th place. The Tiger’s top runner, Chapman, finished at 21:14.9.
Although sporting two top 20 finishers, Mansfield’s men were also left off the team standings with only three total runners.
Mansfield’s junior boys found similar circumstances as they two had high scoring runners but lacked depth.
Freshmen Tommy Phang (12th) and Ashton Hinkle (14th) ran enviable times but couldn’t overcome the five person limitation.
Cassidy Carlton, Addie Bowman, Aiden Fildes, Azlynn Nelson, and Megean Newman all made their cross country debuts for Mansfield. Eden Mounts also ran for the Lady Tigers.