This week's spring break vacation should be a spirited one for Payson High School track team members knowing they stamped themselves as the teams to beat in the Central Division with convincing wins at the six-team Cactus Shadows Invitational.
Battling several of the division's powers at the meet held Wednesday in Cave Creek, the Payson girls ran away with the gold, accumulating 171 points. Seton was second with 152, and host Cactus Shadows third, with 109. Valley Christian and Coolidge tied for fourth, accumulating identical tallies of 36. Fountain Hills trailed with 27.
Among the boys' teams, the Horns finished with 114. Seton (108) was a close second.
Other participants included Fountain Hills (93), Cactus Shadows (91), Valley Christian (82) and Coolidge (37).
For the Horn boys' team, Mike Barker proved he's recovered from a shoulder injury, suffered during wrestling season, by winning both the shot-put and discus. In the shot-put, he edged past teammates Jeremy Hoff, the event runner-up, with a mark of 45 feet, 8 1/2 inches. Hoff threw 45 feet, 1 inch.
Barker's winning toss in the discus was measured at 141 feet, 7 inches.
The Horns only other individual event championship came in the 100-meter dash, that was won by David Shaw in 11.2.
Like their win at the Arizona Boys Ranch Invitational March 6, the Horn team relied on depth and loads of second through sixth place points to win the Cactus event.
In the 800-meter runs, team points were supplied by runner-up Andy Pederson, bronze- medalist Mike Sprinkle and sixth-place finisher Joe Sanchez.
Second-place honors were also taken by the 4x100 relay team of Jeremy Conner, Andrew Easton, Josh Barnhardt and Shaw. The 4x400 relay team of Brandon Peters, Sanchez, Pederson and Heath Boyle finished second as well.
Mike Sprinkle added to the Horns' cause with a third-place finish in the triple jump. Hoff was third in the pole vault.
The Lady Horns
In winning the crown, the girls' team posted seven gold-medal performances. They included two from sophomore Rheanna Martinez who was first in both the 100 (13.0) and 200-meter dashes (27.58).
Others who won gold medals were Stephanie Ray (1600 and 3200 meters), Shawna McCarty (pole vault) and both the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.
On the 4x100 team are Katie Langeliers, Sara Schmidt, Sara Fogerty and Samantha Ellsworth. The 4x400 team is led by Michelle Closs, followed by Schmidt, Leighann Haynes and anchor Brianna Marshall.
Stephanie Robertson picked up a second in the shot-put with a heave of 33 feet. Katie Smoyer's pole vault of 6 feet, 6 inches was also good enough for a silver medal.
Third-place honors were garnered by Ellsworth, only a freshman, in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.
Haynes also copped a third in the 800-meter run as did the 4x800 relay team of Marshall, Shaina Vaught, Haynes and Davis.
Both track teams will return to action March 24 at Prescott Bradshaw Mountain. March 27, the Horns travel to the prestigious Chandler Invitational where the teams will receive their first taste of big-school competition battling both 4A and 5A teams.