Underclassmen Duo Anchor Tigers at State


Mansfield coaches Dustin Payne, Josh Bryan, Kaylie Pyles, and John Mackey escort track athletes Bri Sanderson, Sadie Roberts, and Sara Willadsen to the class 3A state meet in Green Forest. Also attending but not pictured is Makayla Strutton.

Lacking experienced upperclassmen,
Mansfield relied on a freshman and a sophomore to score points at the class 3A
state track meet.

Navigating a realigned conference,
Mansfield uncharacteristically advanced only four athletes out of the difficult
3A-1 West district meet to the class 3A state finals on April 30. Out of those
four athletes, a freshman and a sophomore led the way for the Tiger scoring.

Sadie Roberts, a freshman high jumper,
tied for fourth at the Green Forest hosted state track meet held on Tuesday
night. Coming in, Roberts’ conference ranking had her listed as the sixth best
jumper at the meet.

“Sadie did a good job of calming the
nerves and staying focused in the moment,” stated Coach John Mackey. “She just
about tied her own personal record at five feet. That would have guaranteed an
All-State spot and possibly first. Her heel just rolled the crossbar at the
last second.”

Roberts was among a log jam of jumpers
that cleared 4’ 10”. An early miss derailed her standings and pushed her down
the final rankings.

“We talked a lot the last few days of
practice about jumping clean,” continued Mackey. “State always seem to come
down to misses in an equal height scenario. There’s so many good jumpers that
it’s hard to just out jump all the other athletes. Regardless, Sadie was in the
mix and proved she’s one of the best high jumpers in our class.”

Bri Sanderson, the sophomore point
producer, did his best at the men’s discus ring. The large framed track athlete
turned his third throw of the day into his best ever. A 124’ 6” whirlybird
passed all but the final four competitors yet to through.

Guaranteed a spot in the finals with
three more tosses coming, Sanderson was all smiles. With his position coach,
Dustin Payne, at his side; the two realized scoring points in a state track
meet was a real possibility for the All-District tenth grader.

“The high jump and discus ran at the
same time within ten yards of each other,” noted Mackey. “Coach Payne kept his
watchful eye on Bri as I tutored Sadie. That didn’t stop either one of us from
bouncing back and forth at both venues to watch our two kids excel. All our
track coaches took real pride in watching Mansfield kids succeed.”

Sanderson ended the meet keeping his
preliminary toss of 124’ 6”. It placed him in sole possession of fifth place
and four points for the Tigers.

Mansfield’s other opportunities to score
came from their lone qualifying senior and another sophomore.

Makayla Strutton, a sophomore hurdler,
was the first to take the track for the Tigers at a 12:30 PM preliminary race
in the 100m hurdles. The objective was to make the finals with a top two finish
or be one of the remaining four best times overall.

Strutton landed just outside that
window. Her 18.48 clocking was good but not good enough to advance. When the
smoke cleared from the other heat, Strutton was left below the top eight. Her
time was the tenth best measure at state.

Sara Willadsen, the only senior Lady
Tiger to make the state meet, did so in the 100m dash. Her race was
approximately 15 minutes after Strutton’s go.

The clock was not Willadsen’s friend on
this day. Mansfield’s most productive athlete for the 2019 season fell victim
to saturated speed dripping from other parts of the state. Her 14.28 prelim
mark was slower than the 13.81 stoppage that sent her to the state.

“Sara and Makayla really did well, but
they both experienced the speed that lives and breaths outside Scott County,”
confessed their head coach. “Sara was thirteenth and Makayla was tenth in the
state. That’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s a tangible accomplishment and we look forward
to this pair representing Mansfield at the heptathlon in two weeks.”

Mansfield freshman Sadie Roberts take a deep breath before attempting the high jump at state.

Sophomore Bri Sanderson enjoys his best day at the state track meet in the discus throw.

Willadsen and Strutton will represent Mansfield at the state heptathlon on May 15-16.

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Tammy Teague

Tammy Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; 20+ years experience in the news.

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