Practicing on a makeshift softball field, where there is no running track and a piece of wood serves as the shot-put/discus ring, hasn't slowed the success of the Tonto Apache Track and Field.
For medal-clad evidence, look no further than the prestigious Phoenix Invitational 2000 held two weeks ago. Proving they are among the state's best, the team ran, jumped and threw its way to a third-place finish in the 63 club team field.
More proof the club is a powerful one unfolded Saturday evening when the Tonto Apaches returned to Payson with 18 gold medals won at an amateur meet held that day at Peoria High School.
Tonto Apache club coach and founder Billy Joe Winchester said final scores had not yet been received, but he expects the team to do well based on individual accomplishments.
With three gold medals and a bronze, 15-year-old Waylon Quotskuyva paced the Tonto Apache effort at Peoria.
His first-place finishes -- in the intermediate boys age division -- came in the shot-put, discus and javelin. In the high jump, he was third, clearing five feet.
Making his feats even more astonishing was the fact that he had never participated in the javelin but still managed to uncork a throw of over 121 feet. With practice and better technique, his potential is unlimited, Winchester said.
Other first-place finishes for the Tonto team were garnered by Daniel Bunting and Michael Waterman.
Bunting was top gun in the intermediate boys high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 4 inches.
Waterman won the youth boys shot-put and discus.
In molding the Tonto Apache team, Winchester -- a former Arizona State University football standout -- has adopted a unique coaching philosophy.
"I let the kids do whatever they want and just have fun," he said. "They should try different events. You never know until you try."
But his laissez-faire philosophy shouldn't be misinterpreted -- the team has strict guidelines to adhere to.
"We were missing some of our track members (in Peoria) because they needed to be at practice three times a week and they weren't," the coach said. "If not at practice, there's no track meet."
The coach's approach to guiding the young squad through the rigors of the practice week and competition on weekends has resulted in several impressive individual gains.
Those who have made huge strides since the onset of the season two months ago include Michael Waterman, Charlie Lopez and Heather Waterman.
"They have moved up the ladder with hard work at practice, " Winchester said.
In particular, Michael Waterman uncorked a discus throw of 153 feet at Peoria but fouled. Still, he won the gold with a throw of 139 feet, 6 inches.
Team member Jennifer Florez, who competed for only the second time ever, managed a sixth-place finish in the shot-put and fifth in the discus.
Although she is a novice to the sport, Jennifer said, "I'm getting better and it's a lot of fun."
The team returns to track and field action April 29 at Glendale Community College.
Other results from Peoria
Valentino Doka, 5th, shot-put; Miguel Lopez, 3rd, shot-put;
Charlie Lopez, 2nd, shot-put, 3rd discus;
Heather Waterman, 3rd, shot-put, 4th, discus;
Michael Waterman, 1st, shot-put, 1st, discus, 3rd, high jump;
Jennifer Flores, 6th, shot-put, 5th, discus;
Josh Quetskuyua, 3rd, discus; Daniel Bunting, 1st, high jump; Paul Burdette, 400m, 800m.