At the onset of the cross country season, coach Chuck Hardt predicted he would spend most of the campaign searching for enough talented runners to help the PHS boys team earn a top-four regional finish and the resulting berth into the state championships.
The coach's cause wasn't helped a bit Sept. 13 in Whiteriver at the Alchesay Invitational. There, the Horns were forced to compete without one of their few seasoned runners Cole Newbold. The teenager remained in Payson and did not participate due to illness.
With only veteran Wes Sprinkle to shoulder the running burden, the Horns struggled to a last-place showing, in the three-team field with 65 points.
Host Alchesay ran away with the invitational crown, finishing with 17 points. Pinnacle, a new 3A school, was second (53).
Alchesay rode away with the crown, thanks to the exploits of defending state champion Blaine Goklish who won the individual title in a blazing 17:05.
Sprinkle turned in Payson's best effort, finishing fourth in 19:14.
"He looked good it was his best (effort) of the season," Hardt said.
The remainder of the Horn cause was taken up by a bevy of untested underclassmen who are struggling through the sacrifices of long-distance running.
Competing for Payson were Daniel Jacobs (20:37), Noah Barnes (20:42), Martin Garcia (20:46), Joe Behrens (21:24), Danny Malloy (21:44), James Rivas (23:20), Josh Sprinkle (23:24), Tanner Morgan (23:52) and Troy Mars (24:09).
Next up for the Payson boys is the Blue Ridge Invitational Saturday afternoon in Lakeside.