Payson's Stephanie Robertson, who'll enroll next fall as a freshman student/athlete at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, has been issued an invitation to participate in America's most prestigious heptathlon training camp.
She and 14 other promising young heptathletes -- ages 17, 18 and 19 years -- will travel to the ARCO U.S. Olympic Training Center at Chula Vista, Calif., beginning July 26 for the one-week-long USA Junior Elite Olympic Development Training Camp.
According to Robertson's local coach, Dan Reid, participation in the camp represents the pinnacle of achievement for the country's fledgling heptathletes.
"It really is a privilege. They'll feed, house her, and the top coaches in the United States will be there to cover everything -- training theory, sports psychology, bio-mechanics, diet and technical aspects," Reid said.
Robertson was thrilled with her selection. "It's really exciting, hard to believe I was one (of those chosen)."
Currently Robertson -- a 1999 graduate of PHS -- is taking a one-month break from her athletic endeavors that included starring in volleyball, basketball and track and field last school year.
"She needed the break," Reid said.
But as early as next week, Robertson is scheduled to return to heptathlon training to prepare her for the San Diego camp and college athletics which will begin in September at NAU.
Set to journey to San Diego with Robertson is Lady Longhorn head coach Chuck Hardt.
In college, Robertson -- a three-year, three-sports star at PHS -- will focus only on track and field.
"They have both indoor and outdoor seasons, so I won't have time for any other sports," she said.
As one of the country's most promising heptathletes, she has scored a career best 4,563 points at the Great Southwest Meet held in Tempe this spring.
The winner of this year's event at the Big Sky Conference Meet -- in which NAU participates -- scored about 4,900 points.
"She's getting close to college level," Reid said.
During her two-year career as a heptathlete, Robertson has built a reputation as a strong all-around performer with few weaknesses. Her best event now, Reid said, is probably the shot-put. But, he added, she's shown great potential in the javelin and by the end of her college days, the 800-meter run could be her premier event.
The highlight of Robertson's high school track and field career might have occurred in mid-April at the Glendale Invitational Meet.
There, she won her second consecutive heptathlon title, setting a new meet record of 4,442 points, besting the mark she set in 1998 of 4,379.
But, it was the dramatic fashion by which she won that captured fans' attention.
During the two days, Robertson could never shake Glendale Cactus' Abby Andrus, who led early in the competition.
At the end of the high jump, Andrus held a 40-point cushion over the Payson star.
Robertson made up much of the points and finally took the lead in the shot-put with a throw of 32 feet, 6 1/2 inches. The mark represented a point differential of plus 105 over Andrus.
Nonetheless, the championship came down to the final 800-meter event. Andrus won in 2:25.84 but the time differential over Robertson's silver medal finish (2:31.15) didn't produce enough points to lift the Cactus star to the crown.
In the overall scoring, Andrus was a close second, only six points behind Robertson.
Longhorn coach Pete Greer said at the time that had Andrus won the 800 by another second, she would have been the heptathlon champion and Robertson would have been runner-up.
"We knew it was going to be close, but not that close," Reid said.
In winning, Robertson brought new recognition for small-town athletes -- she was the only Class 3A representative entered. Her opponents all represented the big-school 4A and 5A conferences.
One of the state's best
The heptathlon earned Robertson national attention and a college scholarship, but she was also one of Arizona's premier basketball and volleyball players.
In volleyball, she played only one varsity season -- as a senior -- but was the team's starting middle hitter.
She was chosen All-Central Division First Team, All-Arizona Honorable Mention and a participant in the Arizona Coaches' Association North vs. South All-Star game.
After overcoming an ankle injury that slowed her basketball progress in early season, she went on to lead the team to the state quarterfinals before the Lady Horns were eliminated by eventual state champion Monument Valley.
Making good on a promise
At the onset of the 1999 track and field season, Robertson said one of her goals was to help the Lady Horns win the state championship denied them last season when an official's scoring error resulted in a third-place finish.
When the lights were turned off in University of Arizona's Drachman Stadium May 15, Robertson had fulfilled her goal.
Payson outscored runner-up Safford, 168-157, to wrestle the state crown from the Bulldogs who had held it a national record 12 consecutive years.
Robertson was one of the chief architect's of the amazing upset in Tucson, finishing second in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, third in the shot -put and fifth in the long jump.