Outscoring Safford 168-157 Saturday evening 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.
Before departing for Tucson, Payson coaches and athletes were quietly optimistic that the team -- which a week earlier ran away with the Central Division crown -- could wrestle the title from the Lady Dogs. In past years many teams have entertained just such thoughts, only to come up short when the starting guns were fired.
But Friday and Saturday it was the Lady Horns who were the toasts of the track meet.
Coaches agree that upsetting talented Safford was a team effort that required seeding as many athletes as possible into the finals held on Saturday afternoon and evening in Drachman Track Stadium.
Rheanna Martinez paced the Lady Horn effort in the finals, winning the long jump (17 feet, 4 1/4 inches) and the 100 meters in a not-so-fast 12.89. Martinez has run a 12:44 this season.
In addition to her two gold medals, Martinez copped second in the triple jump (35 feet, 8 inches) and a fifth in the 200 meters (27.68).
In the triple jump, Martinez was upset by St. John's Jodi Smith, who set a new state record of 36 feet, 8 3/4 inches.
At meet's end, Lady Horn coach Pete Greer predicted "Smith's record will fall at the 2000 meet when Rheanna breaks it."
Smith is a senior and will graduate this spring. Martinez is only a sophomore.
Stephanie Robertson also provided the Longhorn title effort a huge boost, finishing second in both the 100 and 300 meter hurdles, third in the shot put and fifth in the long jump.
Boys finish fourth
Scoring 90 points, the Longhorn boys' team finished fourth in the 25-team field behind Winslow (133), Safford (99) and Round Valley (96).
Entering the meet, the Horn coaching staff said the competition would be wide open, due to the absence of three-time defending state champion Arizona Boys Ranch. ABR is experiencing legal woes and did not field a team.
With the Spartans not in the field, Winslow and Safford assumed the favorites' role, with Payson listed as a dark horse.
The biggest surprise of the boys' showing came in the discus throw, in which Longhorn senior Mike Barker was ranked fourth in the field of qualifiers. Surprising many, Barker managed to unleash a throw of 161 feet, 10 inches on his fifth attempt, that guaranteed him the gold medal.
Flexing its muscles in the throws events, Payson also picked up a gold medal in the shot put when Jeremy Hoff uncorked a toss of 52 feet, 5 inches.
Note: See the May 21 edition of the Payson Roundup for complete state meet results for both boys and girls.