In a prepractice chalk-talk only a few days before Saturday's state cross -country championships, Longhorn coach Chuck Hardt told his charges they would be definite underdogs at the Class 3A finals.
That might have been a tad difficult for the teenagers to accept in that the undefeated girls team easily won the East Division title and the boys squad finished as runners-up.
But in the sport of cross country, accolades are traditionally reserved for Northern Arizona reservation teams.
Hardt said he was hoping the lack of recognition his teams were receiving would prove to be a motivating factor in the big show. But as officials had predicted throughout the season, it was the reservation schools who romped to state titles at the meet held Saturday over a 3.1-mile course at Gilbert's Freestone Park.
In the 3A girls competition, Tuba City (26 points) was first, Ganado (67) second, Winslow (117) third and Payson (119) fourth.
Among the boys, the Longhorns (196) settled for seventh place behind state champ Tuba City (70), Rio Rico (99), Winslow (104), Ganado (106), Window Rock (113) and Whiteriver Alchesay (176).
Hardt pulled out all the stops in trying to prepare his young crew of girls for the state meet but even he had to know that in taking on powerful Tuba City, the odds were stacked against the Lady Horns.
Tuba's 1999 crown represented a three-peat for the Warriors who had their top four runners return from last year's team.
With five runners in the top nine, including overall champion Ciji Honahi (19:56), TC dominated the competition.
Like their Lady Horn counterparts, the boys team was facing huge odds in that senior-laden Tuba City was top-ranked, talented and determined.
Although, Whiteriver Alchesay junior Blaine Goklish (16:39) took the individual championship, TC had four runners in the top 29.
The meet at Freestone Park represented the first time that all classes of schools 1A through 5A competed on the same day at the same course.
In girls finals, Glendale Mountain Ridge (5A), Page (4A) and Hopi (1A-2A) won titles.
Among the boys, Horizon (5A), Page (4A) and Hopi (1A-2A) were victorious.