Thanks to financial support from the local Rotary Club and the Mogollon Sporting Association, the Payson High School Freshman and Sophomore Track and Field Invitational set for tomorrow (Saturday) should be one of the premier prep athletic events in the state.
Schools that have committed to send teams include Apache Junction, Tolleson, Skyline, Flagstaff Coconino, Fountain Hills, Cactus Shadows, Flagstaff, Blue Ridge, Valley Christian and Scottsdale Coronado.
Field events will begin at 11 a.m. and track events at noon. There is no admission charge.
The format of the meet is unique in that freshmen are pitted against freshmen and sophomores against sophomores.
That gives the younger athletes the opportunity to learn how they fare against others of their own age and maturity. In most Class 3A track meets, the underclassmen must compete against juniors and seniors which often turns into a disadvantage for the younger, less experienced athletes.
Another nice touch of the invitational which fans won't see in most other meets is the coed relay races.
In both the 4x800 and 4x400 relays, the races are run girl, boy, girl, boy. That pairing makes for exciting competition and helps build camaraderie among the girls' and boys' teams that might not normally exist.
Longtime track and field fans will remember tomorrow's meet as the Payson Rotary Invitational that once was one of the premier varsity events in rural Arizona. Because the PHS track fell into such disrepair years ago, the meet was scaled down, then discontinued.
Several years ago, Coach Chuck Hardt and his staff breathed new life into the meet, bringing it back as a freshman and sophomore event.
With the PHS facility slated to receive a new state-of-the-art track in the near future, Hardt predicts the now defunct varsity invitational could return as part of the local sports scene.
Last summer, rookie Lady Longhorn softball coach Will Dunman packed up his team and headed to Flagstaff to participate in an Arizona State University-sponsored sports camp. The team members returned saying they believed the camp had helped build softball skills and improve understanding of the game.
This summer, local basketball players will have the same opportunity as did the diamond squad last year.
Sun Devil girls basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne is hosting a series of three skills camps this summer in Wells Fargo Arena on ASU's Tempe campus.
An individual camp for girls in grades 6 to 12 will be held June 8-11. A day camp for players in grades 3 to 8 is slated for June 12 to 15.
A team camp geared toward high school teams interested in working on teams skills in game situations is on tap for June 2 and 3.
Prep coaches look forward to team camps because they allow them the opportunity to work with their players in game-like scrimmages against other squads without the pressures of winning and losing.
All camps will be conducted by ASU women's basketball coaches and players.
Call Sun Devil assistant basketball coach Laura Hughes at (480) 965-2648 for more information.
Soccer coaches needed
The Town of Payson is desperately looking for four soccer coaches to round out league play, said Recreation Coordinator Beth Kreider.
Most of the teams have started practicing this week for league play, which begins April 24. The four teams without coaches can't begin practice until those positions are filled.
Kreider said anyone interested must work well with children and have a basic knowledge of soccer. To learn more, call Payson Parks and Recreation at 474-5242, ext. 7.