Almost a full month has trickled by since the Longhorn cross country teams tipped off grueling preseason practice sessions that often included leggin' up the stands at the Rumsey Park rodeo grounds.
During those days, there's been plenty of old-fashioned hard work, conditioning and technique training that would send less dedicated youngsters scampering to retreat at a Valley mall or behind a video game.
Finally, Saturday in Flagstaff the young athletes will have the opportunity to reap the success of their labors.
At the season-opening Peaks Invitational at Flagstaff High School, the Rim country runners will go spike-to-spike against some of the state's best athletes. Among the Horn foes will be several representing the Northern Arizona reservation schools which traditionally dominate the state cross country meet.
The Lady Horns will counter with a talented crew that includes senior Stephanie Ray, who was one of the team's best last year.
Sophomores Amy Davis and Leighann Haynes are talented beyond their years.
In addition to that trio, Horn coach Chuck Hardt can call upon a strong group of other veterans including Mary Mendoza, Samantha Myers, Lyndsey Heizer and Katrina Beeler.
The boys' team has been paced in early-season workouts by senior Joe Sanchez, but there's plenty of potential in Jeremy Lee, Wes Sprinkle, Jerry Baker and Cole Newbold, Hardt says.
Transfer Matt Christener, a sophomore, impressed the coach in preseason drills and has the advantage of having participated in a top-notch program in his former home state of Ohio.
The cross country teams will make their Rim country debut Sept. 8 on a course that runs adjacent to the Payson Golf Course. Teams from Blue Ridge, Fountain Hills, Show Low, Holbrook, Alchesay, Snowflake and Gilbert Mesquite are expected. Start time will be announced.