A week after the Arizona State High School Cross Country championships wrapped up, a contingent of six Payson High School athletes joined by two from Rim Country Middle School leaped spikes-first back into competition.
Battling at the Arizona State Junior Olympic State championships Saturday in Phoenix, all Payson representatives ran their way to top-20 finishes. The performances earned the speedy crew berths in the Region X Cross Country championships this Saturday at Glendale Thunderbird Park.
Set to represent the Rim country in the regional champions are Kari Hardt, Matt Behrens Whitney Hardt, Daniel Jacobs, Michelle Closs, Amy Davis and Lily Flores.
Kari Hardt qualified for Junior Olympic regionals with a first-place finish in the Midget Girls age division. Behrens was fourth among the Midget Boys. Both youngsters starred last season on the RCMS Maverick cross country team.
Competing in the Youth Girls category, Whitney Hardt the Class 3A prep state silver medalist finished first.
In the Intermediate Girls division, Leigh Ann Haynes was first, Closs was fourth and Davis was sixth.
Jacobs represented Payson in the Intermediate Boys age group and was fifth.
Flores took third in the Young Women's age division.
No times were available for the runners who competed on the 4K (Midget and Youth) and 5K (Intermediate) courses.
Whitney Hardt, Haynes, Closs, Davis and Flores all played prominent roles in the Lady Longhorns run to the Class 3A state runner-up title last fall.
Athletes who finish among the top 20 at the Region X Junior Olympic championships earn the right to participate in the National Championships Dec. 9 at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park near Reno, Nev.
PHS cross country coach Chuck Hardt said no local team entry will be sent to the national games but qualifiers can compete unattached.