Today, Tuesday, at Burke High School in Omaha, Neb., six members of the Tonto Apache Track and Field team will begin pursuit of what could eventually lead to the pinnacle of success in amateur track and field individual national championships.
Team members Taylor Walden, Matt Johnson, Mikey Waterman, Derek Hoosava and Ben Krieger qualified for the USA National Track and Field finals with top-three finishes in the Region 10 championships held in Provo, Utah earlier this month.
One of the solid favorites to return home with a national crown is 14-year-old Taylor Walden. The youngster, a freshman at Payson High next year, advanced to the national meet as the Region 10 champion in both the shot-put and discus.
Competing in the Youth Boys' division he won the shot-put with a booming toss of 46 feet, 4 inches. In the discus, his winning mark was measured at 131 feet.
Walden is no stranger to the national championships, having advanced last spring when the meet was held in Seattle, Wash. There, he finished 14th.
Hoosava advanced to Omaha as the Region 10 Midget Boys' silver medalist in both the shot-put and discus. In the shot-put, he finished second with an effort of 34 feet, 8 inches. His discus heave was recorded at 84 feet, 10 inches.
In the Youth Boys' discus competition, Waterman qualified for nationals with a throw of 125 feet, to finish second to Walden.
Krieger, who's coming off two knee surgeries, took third in the Region 10 Young Men's shot-put finals chalking up a toss of 44 feet, 9 inches. Krieger predicts that he'll need a toss of at least 50 feet if he is to win the national championship.
The Tonto Apache Track and Field team has been strong in the "throws" events since the squad was founded two years ago by Billy Joe Winchester, a former college shot-put and discus specialist.
But this year the team boasts a national qualifier outside the throws.
Johnson has earned a berth in the 1,500-meter racewalk by finishing third at Provo in 9:44.
Current Tonto Apache coach Randy Pryor said Johnson jumped into the sport on a whim, but has proven he has a definite affinity to excel in it.
"It's kind of different, but he does well," he said.
The national championships will mark the conclusion of the 1999 season for the members of the Tonto Apache team. Action resumes again next spring.