When Payson High School was a member of the East Division from 1991 to 1997, Longhorn sports teams often found themselves locked in fierce athletic wars against both Snowflake and Show Low.
Those fabled endeavors were rekindled Saturday at the Ray Relays in Kearny, where the Lady Horns outscored both the Lobos and the Cougars to take first place among the 12 teams participating. The Horns finished with 148 points, runner-up Snowflake had 136 and bronze-medalist Show Low 107.
The win over Snowflake was particularly sweet for the PHS team and coaching staff because the Lobos -- along with Safford -- are one of the favorites to earn the state championship when it is contested May 14 and 15 at the University of Arizona.
With the victory, the Lady Horns established themselves as also one of the teams that could wrestle the state title away from Safford, which has held it a national-record 13 consecutive years.
However, the victory in Kearny could be a tad misleading due to the way the meet is scored. Rather than traditional scoring for top individual placings, teams receive most of their points based on "relays," or the total effort of all the individuals.
For example, in the pole vault, the Lady Horns took first place when their relay team of Katie Smoyer, Shawna McCarty and April Cheer combined to clear 20 feet, 6 inches in height.
In the 800 medley relay, two legs of 100 meters, and legs of 200 and 400 meters are run. Payson won first with the team of Katie Langeliers, Sara Schmidt, McCarty and Samantha Ellsworth.
Payson also took the top spot in the rugged distance medley of 400, 800, 1,200 and 1,600 meters, with a foursome of McCarty, Langeliers, Smoyer and Stephanie Ray.
The event also featured several individual competitions. In the 200-meters, Payson's Rheanna Martinez ran her way to a first-place finish, as did Ray in the 3,200 meters. Brianna Marshall was second in the 400-meter run.
PHS senior Stephanie Robertson picked up a silver medal in the 300-meter hurdles, but probably would have been the gold-medalist had the event been decided in head-to-head competition rather than in heat times, PHS track coach Chuck Hardt said. Robertson and the girl who won the gold ran in different heats.
Had they been run in the same heat, Hardt said, "Steph would have probably beat her."
Boys take third
In the boys' competition at Kearny, the Longhorns were forced to accept third-place honors behind runner-up Snowflake and meet champion Winslow. The Bulldogs tallied 129 points, Snowflake 103 and Payson 102.
In the individual 800-meter run, PHS senior Heath Boyle -- the track club president -- copped the gold medal.
The team of Mike Barker, Jeremy Hoff and Ken Holcomb won the shot-put relay, as did the discus relay trio of Barker, Holcomb and Rob Owens.
The PHS track teams return to action March 24 in Prescott Valley against Bradshaw Mountain.