Wouldn't it be great for our school and community to have a huge crowd show up Friday afternoon on Main Street for the Sludge to the Judge cross country event?
Often, cross country is an overlooked sport because it must compete in the fall with football, volleyball and soccer. But, cross country is one of the most demanding athletic endeavors in which young people can choose to participate.
Horn coach Chuck Hardt is one of the first to admit that the sport requires a unique dedication from its athletes. Not many teenagers want to make the sacrifices of long distance training in which they are basically alone and isolated with their own thoughts.
In all good cross country runners, the motivation to succeed comes from within. There is usually no cheering crowd of fans and friends as in other sports.
This year in Payson, we are fortunate enough to have one of the best girls' cross country teams in the state.
In a recent poll of Arizona's high school coaches, which included schools of all size classifications, Payson was ranked 14th. Considering the Lady Horns were vying against Class 4A, 5A Phoenix schools and the powerful Northern Arizona reservation teams, the ranking represents a huge accomplishment.
Former PHS track and field coach Dan Reid who is also a past president of the state coaches association says the Lady Horns are relatively unknown on the state level but this year's group is rapidly making a name for itself.
A great way to pay tribute to the hard-working team members and to their dedicated coach would be to attend Friday's run.
A large crowd would show all concerned that our school and community are proud of the sacrifices the youngsters are making.
The start line for the run is near the Gila County Sanitary Plant hence the race name "Sludge to the Judge."
There's no admission charge, so find yourself a nice, shady spot along Main Street and cheer on the young runners. For those who want to be at the finish line, it will be located directly south of Justice of the Peace Ronnie McDaniel's office in the Gila County Complex.
McDaniels is a fixture at the event, serving as the race director who also enthusiastically greets every runner who crosses the finish line regardless of the school he or she represents. The Judge also reaches deep into his pockets each year to purchase trophies and plaques for the winning runners.
Locals who attend the event will also have the opportunity to view future Longhorn runners in action at the "Sawmill Mile" event which will precede the high school competition. Rim Country Middle School, in only its second year of competition, has entered both its boys and girls teams.
Following the completion of the high school events, fans can hang around Main Street long enough to catch the annual homecoming parade which is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at Julia Randall School.
The boys' middle school run is slated to start at 1 p.m.; the middle school girls follow immediately after. PHS boys begin running at 1:35 p.m.; and the girls follow.