In preseason practices, Payson High track and field coach Chuck Hardt assessed his Longhorn boys' squad as one which didn't have the depth it had last year when the team won the Central region championship and went on to a state fourth-place finish.
Those predictions proved accurate at the March 1 season-opening Winslow five-way invitational.
Despite earning three gold medals, the Longhorns (53 points) stumbled to a fourth-place finish behind Winslow (116), St. Johns (76) and Snowflake (74). The only team the Horns outpointed was lowly Show Low (37).
In nine of the events, the Payson team did not have a single entry. However, one of the reasons for the lack of participation was the cold, windy and rainy conditions at the meet.
In the downpour, some athletes were asked by coaches to refrain rather than risk injury.
If there was a highlight in the team's performance, it had to be the efforts of junior Sterling White, a star performer who is recovering from knee surgery last month to repair an injury he suffered during a basketball game.
White won the shot put event with a heave of 45 feet, 1 inch. He also took second in the discus, uncorking a throw of 102 feet, 2 inches.
In addition to White's gold in the shot put, the Horns team effort received a much needed boost from first-place showings by David Shaw and Jeremy Lee.
The speedy Shaw, the school record-holder in the 100 meters, won his specialty in 11.34.
Lee ran away with the gold in the 800 meters, touring the Winslow two-lap course in 2:09.4.