With the hounding footsteps of Glendale Cactus' Abby Andrus ringing in her ears, Payson track and field standout Stephanie Robertson battled to a second consecutive Glendale Invitational heptathlon meet record.
Refusing to wilt under the heat of Robertson's exploits, Andrus wrapped up the arduous two-day event on a warm Saturday afternoon at Glendale College with 4,436 points. The mark bested the 4,379 meet record Robertson set last year.
On any other day against any other athlete, Andrus' feat might have earned her a pile of accolades. But at Glendale, the gold-medal-winning Robertson's 4,442 points were a step ahead of the Cactus star's accomplishments.
Exciting as establishing a new Glendale mark was, Robertson's new record took a distant back seat in the stretch limo to the red-hot competition between her and Andrus.
The girls battled spike-to-spike, javelin-to-javelin through six of the seven heptathlon requirements. The outcome wasn't certain until the competitors collapsed across the finish string in the final event.
Longhorn coach Pete Greer described the nail-biting scenario.
"It came down to the 800 (meters)," he said. "In winning the 800, Andrus beat (runner-up) Stephanie by about five seconds (2:25.84 to 2:31.15). Had she (Andrus) won by another second, she would have been the (hepthalon) champ and Stephanie second."
Dan Reid, who serves as a volunteer coach for Robertson, said Andrus' performance was a mild surprise in light of the fact she finished a distant fourth at Glendale last year.
According to Reid, the turnabout probably occurred when Andrus dropped all other sports at the conclusion of the Great Southwest Track and Field Meet last spring and devoted most of her practice time to improving in the heptathlon.
"She has some weaknesses, but she's also very good in other (events)," Reid said.
A meet to remember
The shootout in Glendale began Friday afternoon with Robertson finishing third in the 100 meter hurdles (15.89). For the feat, she was awarded 728 heptathlon points.
By racking up 838 points for winning the event in 15.03, Andrus jumped out to the early lead.
In the second event, the high jump, Robertson leaped 5 feet, 4 1/4 inches and tied for first. Andrus only cleared 5 feet, 1 3/4 inches -- a tie for third -- but carded enough to hold a 40-point cushion over Robertson.
As the events continued to unfold --the shot put and 200 meters on Friday, and the long jump and javelin throw on Saturday --Robertson and Andrus were never separated by more than a few points.
It was a battle that would have made Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed proud.
Finally, in the 800-meter run, the Payson star was able to lay claim to the gold even though she didn't unleash one of her better times. In last year's heptathlon she ran a 2:27.70.
"Whew -- we knew it was going to be close, but not that close," Reid said.
Robertson might not be basking in victory today had it not been for a yeoman-like performance in the shot put. She won with a toss of 32 feet, 6 1/2 inches. Andrus was second but with a much shorter effort of 27 feet, 3 1/2 inch. The point differential for Robertson was a plus-105 -- her largest winning margin over Andrus during the two days.
In winning, Robertson set a new tone for small-town athletes. She was the only Class 3A competitor entered.
Robertson will not have the opportunity to compete in another heptathlon until May 28 -29 when she enters the Great Southwest Meet at Arizona State University.
In addition to the gutsy performance from Robertson, the Longhorn track and field squad had several others set either personal bests or qualify for the state championships by meeting certain predetermined standards at selected track and field meets.
The outside qualifiers from Payson were David Shaw (100 meters; 11.39), Heath Boyle (800 meters; 2:01.23), Jeremy Hoff (shot put; 49 feet, 8 inches), Shawna McCarty (pole vault; 8 feet, 6 inches) and Brianna Marshall (800 meters; 2:29.50).
The standards set by Hoff and Marshall were also personal records.
Also, the Lady Longhorn 4x100 relay team of Marshall, Katie Langeliers, Samantha Ellsworth and Sara Schmidt qualified for state by turning in a 1999 Class 3A top-time of 52.10.
The 4x800 relay team of McCarty, Langeliers, Katie Smoyer and Leighann Haynes churned out their best time of the season (10:42.8).
In the 300 hurdles, Sara Schmidt ran a sizzling 50.2 to set a personal 1999 season standard.
The Longhorn varsity returns to action April 30 at the Winslow Invitationals. Field events begin at noon. Running events at 1 p.m.