The past year will be etched in sports annals as one of the most successful ever at Payson High, a year during which three teams won state championships, another finished second, a coach was selected Arizona "Coach of the Year," and the school was chosen as one of the state's best.
Rendering these events even more spectacular is that all of these honors were achieved in less than a two-week period.
The top 10 stories of the year:
Wrestlers pin sixth state championship (February)
In Phoenix's Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Payson Longhorn wrestling team captured its fourth consecutive 3A Arizona crown, accumulating 181.5 points. Safford finished as runner-up with 129.5 points. Individual champions from Payson were Blair River (hwt), Mike Armstrong (152) and R.C. LaHaye (125).
PHS girls crowned state track champions (May)
Outscoring Safford 168-157 May 16 on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson, the Lady Longhorn track and field team put an end to the Bulldogs' national record, 12-year reign as state champions.
Rheanna Martinez paced the Lady Horn effort in the finals winning the long jump (17 feet, 4 1/4 inches) and the 100 meters (12.89).
Horns snatch Arizona baseball championship (May)
The Payson Longhorns upset highly favored Cave Creek Cactus Shadows 23-11 to win the Class 3A state baseball championship. The scene was sheer Rim country bedlam and for good reason. In the 35-year history of the Payson High School baseball program, the long-awaited victory represented Payson's' first state championship.
PHS golf squad shots shy of crown (May)
At the Arizona State Class 3A Golf Championships played May 11 and 12 on the Dove Valley course in Cave Creek, the Horns finished as runner-ups behind champion Cactus Shadows. In finishing second, Payson carded a commendable 654. Safford, the bronze medalist, finished at 663. The Longhorns strong showing in the state tournament, coach Dave Bradley said, was the result "of a great effort from our kids."
Finishing with a 149, sophomore Tyson McKee was Payson's top entrant, taking third-place honors.
PHS success carved in Stone (May)
"It doesn't get any better than this," Barry Smith, Payson High School's athletic director said after learning the school received, for the first time ever, the prestigious Don F. Stone Award.
Given annually since 1964 by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the Stone award honors a single Class 2A or 3A school for overall excellence in extracurricular activities.
Pettet named Republic's "Coach of the Year" (May)
Payson High School baseball coach Teddy Pettet, who this season led the Longhorns to the state championship, has been honored as "Coach of the Year" by a Phoenix newspaper and a state coaching association.
In the May 23 issue of the Arizona Republic, the newspaper's sports staff tapped Pettet as the "Small School Coach of the Year." Only days before the Republic's honor was bestowed, members of the Arizona Baseball Coaches' Association chose Pettet the Class 3A Coach of the Year.
"This whole thing is like a dream,' he said. "What a great ride."
Town launches new skate park (July)
It took more than a year of planning, implementing and budgeting, but Payson's skate park became a reality late last week when work crews completed the community's first such facility.
The new skate park -- located in a 1,000-square-foot area at Rumsey Park -- houses state-of-the-art equipment designed to tickle the fancy of the most ardent of skateboarders and in-line skaters.
Varsity Horns end Snowflake's football dominance (October)
Turn out the lights -- Snowflake's Rim country football party is over.
The Lobos complete varsity dominance of Payson came to a screeching halt Friday evening in Longhorn stadium when PHS quarterback Kyle Conway hooked up with wide receiver Dusty Brockett on a desperation, game-winning, fourth-down TD pass. The catch, which came with 3.4 seconds remaining in the game, lifted the Horns to a come-from-behind 26-23 victory and put an end to the long misery Payson faithful have suffered at the paws of the Lobos. In the history of football at Payson High, which dates back 35-plus years, the Horns had never recorded a varsity football triumph over Snowflake.
Horns run away with gold at region meet (November)
Paced by the gold-medal efforts of sophomore Leighann Haynes, the Lady Longhorn cross country team ran its way to the Class 3A East Region championships Saturday in Whiteriver. Recording a meet low 19 points, the Lady Horns rumbled roughshod over the remainder of the region. Only host Alchesay gave the Horns much of a tussle, finishing a distant second with 76 points. Following the meet, Haynes was named the Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year by region coaches.
Dream ends for Longhorn soccer (November)
In the history of prep sports at Payson High School there have been many losses that have stung the emotions of players, coaches and fans. But few defeats have been as charged as the Longhorn soccer team's 2-1 state tournament semifinal loss to the Round Valley Elks. A win over RV Friday afternoon in Camp Verde would have propelled Payson into its first appearance in the state championship.