Spring practices at Payson High School are rounding into full swing as athletes and coaches tune up for competition in golf, baseball, softball and track and field.
On the golf scene, coach Dave Bradley's charges open the season March 1 in grand style at the prestigious Chaparral Pines course. Tournament guests will include Snowflake, Show Low and Blue Ridge.
In addition to playing Chaparral, the prep linksters will test a bevy of other highly acclaimed courses including Rim Club, Torres Blancas, Johnson Ranch, Silver Creek, Sedona Oak Creek and Sun Ridge Canyon.
Bradley said some of his returning veterans have been playing the more difficult courses in the Valley in preparation for the upcoming season.
Also March 1, the Longhorn boys' and girls' track teams spring into action at the Winslow multimeet. Highlights of the schedule include the Arizona Boys Ranch Cactus Classic, Chandler Invitational and the North Canyon Invitational
At the Chandler meet, the Horns will be pitted against some of the best athletes in the state regardless of school size classification. Also, outstanding athletes from neighboring states are often invited.
Softball competition begins Feb. 24 on Lady Horn field in a controlled scrimmage against the Winslow Bulldogs. In scrimmages, no scores are kept and the results do not count on the team record or in regional standings.
The campaign tips off in earnest Feb. 29 in Whiteriver against the Alchesay Falcons.
Some highlights of the schedule include the San Manuel Tournament (March 1 to 4) and the 3A East Regional tournament (April 14 and 15). In addition to a full complement of varsity games, the jayvee team has 15 contests on tap and the freshman eight.
This year, the Lady Horns take to the field under the direction of a new coach. Former coach Greg Larkins retired at the conclusion of the 1999 season and jayvee/freshman coach Will Dunman was quickly appointed his replacement.
The baseball team opens the season Feb. 24 against coach Art Griffith's homestanding Winslow Bulldogs. Sure to render the contest interesting and entertaining are the springtime northland winds which turn routine fly balls into outfield adventures.
The last time the two teams locked horns was in a semifinals of the state tournament, played last spring at Peoria Sports Complex.
Payson won that contest 12-0 and went on to claim the state championship.
Many of the players on those teams graduated last spring. But the rivalry that has been building could ensure that the upcoming scrimmage turns more heated than a ho-hum stroll in the park.
Following the scrimmage and the season-opener March 29 against Alchesay, the Horns are slated to participate in a pair of regular season tournaments. The Mohave Valley Tournament will be contested March 2 through 4 at both Mohave and River Valley high schools.
On the jayvee and freshman agenda, both schedules feature full slates of 14 games.
Spring break in the Payson School district is March 3 through 17.