Running probably the best race of her short career against a bulging field of 176 runners from 25 schools, Payson High sophomore LeighAnn Haynes sped her way to a gold medal in the jayvee girls competition at the Peaks Invitational cross country meet Saturday.
The speedster covered the 2.4-mile course at Flagstaff Buffalo Park in 18:11 to fuel the Lady Longhorn jayvees to the team title. Payson finished first with 36 points. Runner-up Xavier had 79 and bronze medalist Tuba City 137.
In addition to the efforts of Haynes, the Lady Horns received stellar performances from Amy Davis (fourth; 18:44), Shalyn McGee (sixth; 18:57), Lily Florez (12th; 19:35), Shaina Vaught (13th; 19:41), Michelle Closs (15th; 19:45) and Rachelle McGee (23rd; 20:16).
The performances of several of the jayvee girls, especially Haynes and Davis, were good enough to qualify them for varsity competition.
However, coach Chuck Hardt said he decided to allow freshmen and sophomores to participate in the jayvee event and juniors and seniors in the varsity run.
The girls' jayvee was the only group to run a shortened 2.4 mile course . The others competed over a 2.9-mile distance.
Hardt said he would have preferred to have the jayvees and varsity run the same distance so he could have compared times.
In the field of 171 varsity competitors, senior Stephanie Ray was top gun for Payson finishing 52nd in 23:23. Thewinning runner finished in 20:11.
Others competing for Payson were Mary Mendoza (74th; 24:17), Katrina Beeler (124th; 26:23), Lyndsey Heizer (145th; 27:47), Samatha Meyeres (146th; 27:47), Sara Siverson (153rd; 28:04) and Brandyce Engler (167th; 31:40).
At press time, Hardt had not received official team standings but said, "our 541-point score may have made the top 20."
Boys competition tough
In the varsity competition, which drew 170 competitors, the Horns were represented by only a trio of runners .
Nolan Blalock paced the three, finishing 110th in 20:14. In 126th place was Wes Sprinkle (20:49). Senior Joe Sanchez trailed in 155th place in 22:37.
In the jayvee run, Garrett Quotskuyva -- who earlier this fall opted out of football for cross country -- ran a commendable 20:13 and finished 27th.
David Jackson was 73rd (22:15) and Josh Sprinkle 160th (27:43). The jayvee boys did not have a team score.
Next up for the cross country teams is a multimeet at 4 p.m. Sept. 15 hosted by Alchesay High School in Whiteriver.