Two weeks of life Down Under begins Thursday for four Payson teenagers and their high school coach.
The players Ashley Grubbs, Lee Ann Owens, Jennifer Plumb and Jamie Peace and Payson High soccer coach Linda Gibson will jet to Australia where they'll participate in the G'day Sports International soccer competition.
Twenty other athletes from around the state will accompany the Payson crew to participate in the athletic and cultural exchange.
According to Gibson, who will coach the Arizona all-star team, the state squad is entered in two tournaments one, an Australian shoot-out and the other, an international competition that has drawn a squad from Africa.
Also on the agenda of the trans-world jaunt that wraps up July 28 are several cultural outings, including tours of animal parks, a railroad trip to Kuranda Village, a visit to the Great Barrier Reef and a stay at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
For a few days, the youngsters will reside with a host family and attend Australian public schools.
On the return trip to the United States, the team stops overnight at Waikiki Beach on Oahu.
The trip, Gibson predicts, will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for her and the young athletes.
To participate in the tour, Grubbs, Owens, Plumb and Peace worked at various odd jobs to raise just over $2,000 in traveling expenses.
The foursome sold raffle tickets at $5 each for a chance at two round-trip airline tickets from Los Angeles to Sydney. They also sold USA team T-shirts, held bake sales and worked concessions at Phoenix Bank One Ballpark.
In late May, they conducted a car wash that was a huge boost to their fund-raising efforts.
All four girls were starting members of last year's varsity soccer team.
Grubbs was chosen for the touring team as a defensive half-back and forward, Owens is a fullback and Plumb a goalie and halfback. Peace is a fullback.
Grubbs, Owens and Plumb will return to the Horn soccer team next season as PHS juniors. Peace graduated with the Class of 2000.
Playing against quality foreign competition in a country where soccer is king could prove to be a unique molding experience for Grubbs, Owens and Plumb, Gibson said.
Baseball goes along
Also set to journey to Australia on a sports and cultural exchange are former Payson High School basketball stars Kacy Parker and Nick Brunson.
The duo won't be part of the exact same tour as the soccer players, but will participate in many of the same activities. Like the soccer crew, the two also depart Thursday.
Baseball tour sponsors, which include Glendale Warnick, say the purpose of the exchange is for Australians and Americans to get to known, and appreciate others better. Also, the sponsors say, the sports/cultural experience helps young people bring harmony and understanding to the world.
Some of the cultural activities will include visits to Paradise Country farms, rain forest near Cairns and to Tjupukai.
Parker and Brunson conducted benefits and fund-raisers of their own to earn the funds necessary for the adventure.
While soccer and baseball players will be leaving Thursday for Australia, a pair of former Payson High football players will be returning that day after a two week stay down under.
Tim Bunting and Justin Kaufmann traveled to Australia as part of an Arizona All-Star gridiron team that was coached by former Payson High School coach Dan Dunn.
For Dunn, the trip was his second visit to Australia as an Arizona All-Star coach. He made his first trip in 1995, taking along former PHS football stars Brent Calkins, Jon Gunzel and Daniel Dunn.