Entering the 1999 Class 3A Arizona Championships Saturday at Freestone Park in Gilbert, Longhorn cross country teams had never featured more than a single medalist in any one state meet.
But that drought ended when the competition wrapped with six members of the boys and girls PHS teams awarded medals for finishing among the top 28 of the state's best.
The success of the Rim country runners, coach Chuck Hardt said, was most likely due to off-season training.
"I believe the foundation for it came from the work done during the summer months," he said.
The medalists for the Lady Horns included Leighanne Haynes, Michelle Closs, Amy Davis and Lily Flores.
On the boys' team, Jeremy Lee and Jerry Baker ran their way to medals.
As Payson's top running threat and the East division Cross Country Running Athlete of the Year-- Haynes finished 18th overall in the field of 110 qualifiers.
She covered the 3.1-mile course in 22:01.
Trailing Haynes to the finish line were Closs (24th; 22:19), Davis (26th(22:29) and Flores (27th; 22:30).
Also competing for the Lady Horns but not medaling were Shalyn McGee (33rd; 22:52), Mary Mendoza (34th; 23:13), and Stephanie Ray (41st; 23:40).
Lee and Baker earned their medals with 26th and 28th place showings. Lee was timed in 18:14 and Baker 18:22.
Other PHS state representatives were Wes Sprinkle (50th; 19:30), Cole Newbold (52nd; 19:25), Joe Sanchez (59th; 19:42), Nolan Blalock (61st; 19:45) and Matt Christianer (85th; 20:52).
The boys' field included 112 state qualifiers from conference four divisions.
The winning female runner, Ciji Honahini of Tuba City, was timed in 19:56.
Alchesay's Blaine Gokish won the boys' competition in 16:39.
With 119 team points, the Lady Horns finished fourth in the state behind Winslow (117), Ganado (67) and Tuba City (26).
Among the boys' teams, Payson finished seventh with 196 points.
Tuba City (70) captured the title, Rio Rico (99) was second and Winslow (104) third.
The good news in the Longhorn camp is that all but four of the state qualifying athletes are underclassmen and will return to the Horn fold for the 2000 season.
Only Ray on the girls team and Sanchez, Blalock and Baker of the boy's squad graduate next spring. Haynes, Closs, Davis and Flores are sophomores. McGee is a freshman and Mendoza a junior. For the boys, Christianer and Newbold are sophomores. Lee and Sprinkle are juniors.
In addition to sporting a school-record number of state medalists, the Longhorn team reaped even more honors when Hardt was named the East Divison's "Coach of the Year" at season's end.