For Lady Longhorn track and field stars Brianna Marshall and Rheanna Martinez, the North Canyon Invitational turned out to be a meet neither will soon forget.
Marshall's memories will undoubtedly include her narrowly winning the 400-meter dash.
For Martinez, the meet produced the euphoria of two gold medals, but also the heartbreak of losing a third after being disqualified for running out of her lane.
In a preliminary round of the 100-meter dash contested Saturday afternoon, Martinez -- after a good start -- led the sprinting pack to the finish line.
Coaches Pete Greer and Chuck Hardt said because she was confused where the finish actually was, she pulled up a few meters early and swerved left into an opponent's lane.
Because her actions, however unintentional they were, impeded another runner she was disqualified from further participation in the event.
Even in the confusion of finding the finish, Martinez was clocked in at 12.93, Greer said. While she was denied first-place honors in the 100, Martinez did win gold medals in both the 200 meters (26.37) and long jump (16 feet, 10 1/2 inches).
In the triple jump, Martinez finished sixth, leaping 33 feet, 11 inches, which is far short of her personal best of nearly 36 feet.
Marshall's first-place finish in the 400 turned out to be the biggest surprise of the day-long event. After barely qualifying for the final round finishing eighth in the preliminaries, Marshall was assigned lane eight which is considered one of the most difficult to run in that particular event.
Refusing to bow under the pressure of competing against much more acclaimed athletes representing Valley schools, Marshall sped her way to a win.
But the victory was a narrow one, Greer said.
"By an eye lash," he said. "From where I was, I couldn't tell who (the winner) was."
In addition to producing a victory, her clocking of 1:03.24 was good enough for an outside qualifying berth into the state meet.
The standard also represented a significant improvement over the 1:04.22 gold-medal effort she turned in at the Cactus Classic Invitational last week.
Greer said it was a mild surprise to the staff that the Payson athletes were able to show progress at the meet since the individuals had little chance to train most of the past week due to poor weather conditions in the Rim country.
Last Monday and Tuesday, school was canceled, as was practice. The remainder of the week, track conditions were so poor coaches opted for weight training, films and chalk talks only.
"It shows that we do have a lot of dedicated athletes who were able to go (to North Canyon) and compete," Greer said.
Even more points
In addition to the efforts of Marshall and Martinez, the Horns picked up even more team points from Sara Schmidt, Brooke Bennett and Sarah Hummer.
Finishing eighth in the 800-meter run, Bennett -- a freshman -- was clocked in at the state outside qualifying standard of 2:31.74. In the 100-meter hurdles, Schmidt legged her way to fifth-place honors in 16.86.
Hummer finished eighth (no distance available) in the discus.
The 41 points racked up by the Lady Horn contingent yielded a sixth-place finish in a 22-team field. Payson was the only small (Class 3A) school entered in the meet.
Finishing ahead of the Lady Horns were Mesa Mountain View (131), Tempe Mountain Pointe (126.5), Red Mountain (78), Gilbert (60) and North Canyon (45).
The boys' team
In the boy's competition, the Horns had two medalists in David Shaw and Sterling White.
As the only true speedster on the Longhorn track and field roster, Shaw sped his way to a fourth-place finish in the 200 meters.
A week earlier at the Cactus Classic, the youngster won the 200-meter competition in 23.07.
While Shaw was heating up the track, White was in the shot put circle throwing his way to a fifth-place finish.
His toss of 44 feet, 8 inches was much better that what it first appears, Greer said.
With Payson schools in spring break, the tracksters will take the week off before turning to action March 22 at a three-way invitational at Mesa Red Mountain.
March 25, selected members of the team will travel south to Chandler where they will compete in the prestigious Chandler Invitational.