Mansfield looks to put New England track and field on the map

NEW ENGLAND -- Heading into Saturday's Southwest Regional meet, New England senior Dakotah Mansfield remains the only Tigers athlete to have already qualified for next week's state meet.Mansfield qualified in the 800 meters early in the season bu...

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New England senior Dakotah Mansfield competes in the 800 meters at the Dickinson Trinity Last Chance Meet Tuesday at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)

NEW ENGLAND -- Heading into Saturday’s Southwest Regional meet, New England senior Dakotah Mansfield remains the only Tigers athlete to have already qualified for next week’s state meet.
Mansfield qualified in the 800 meters early in the season but has since been hampered by a right hamstring injury that has prevented him from qualifying in other events, such as the mile or the 400 meters.
At Tuesday’s Last Chance Meet at the Biesiot Activities Center, Mansfield placed first in the 800 in 2 minutes, 3.24 seconds, just about 2 seconds off the qualifying mark, giving him optimism that he has finally put the injury behind him.
“It felt pretty good after not running for two weeks,” he said. “To almost run a state-qualifying time is great. This weekend, I’ll be able to run a little bit and be able to get back in my rhythm.”
Mansfield placed fourth in the state in the 800 last season, when New England had a co-op with Dickinson Trinity. But the Tigers are now in their first year of having their own program, and Mansfield has his sights on topping his performance from last year and making a name for New England track and field.
“I’ve been wishing to go to state and place first since seventh grade. That would be everything I’ve been working for,” he said. “That would be a dream come true for me. For the program, that would be great because we’d be recognized as a legitimate team. We’re not out there goofing around. We’d be seen as a competitor.”
New England boys track and field head coach Shawn Flaherty said because Mansfield is the only senior boy, he has a great effect on the young Tigers team.
“He’s not the most talkative kid, but he’s been real positive with our younger kids,” Flaherty said. “Being a senior and that has qualified, he’s looked up to a lot.”
Mansfield started his career as a sprinter and had some relative success, but he found his place on the track in the middle- to long-distance events.
“I’m better at the 800 because I’m faster than some distance runners but not as fast as some sprinters,” he said.
Flaherty said the 800 suits Mansfield best because of the attitude he takes into the race.
“His strength helps. He’s a really strong kid, but he’s also mentally built into the 800,” Flaherty said. “He’s a tough kid upstairs. He’s not afraid to compete.”
Mansfield said it’s that mentality that’s gotten him this to this point as an 800 runner, and it’s one he hopes pays dividends Saturday and at the state meet.
“It’s not really physical. It’s really a mental thing,” he said. “It’s one of the worst races I’ve had to run. It’s two really fast laps, and after the first lap you’re pretty much dead. Some people can’t handle just doing those two laps even though it sounds easy. People need to be tough.”

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