Since construction began on the new football bleachers on the south side of the PHS track, coaches, athletes and school administrators have been wondering if the project would be completed by the scheduled April 21 track meet.
A fence around the construction project closed portions of the track, making it unsuitable for competition.
It's official the track will not be ready.
Coach Chuck Hardt has come up with an alternate plan for the annual Rotary Freshman/Sophomore Invitational. During a conversation with Apache Junction High School officials about the meet, coaches there offered the use of their facilities.
Hardt jumped at the chance and the meet will be moved to the AJ campus.
Because there is a youth track and field meet taking place that morning at AJ, Hardt doesn't expect the Rotary competition to begin until about 1 p.m.
The only problem with Payson hosting a meet on a Valley campus is the logistics of getting equipment, meet officials and athletes to AJ.
According to Hardt, several volunteers have already offered to drive their own vehicles to the Valley to help with the meet.
But, even more volunteers are needed for the actual meet.
Hardt is looking for men and women to help in all the traditional running, jumping and throwing events. Volunteers are needed to measure, take times, pick finishers and help oversee the proceedings.
Anyone interested may call Hardt at 474-2233.
Fallen on hard times
Longtime sports fans will remember the Rotary Invitational as one of the best small-town track and field meets in the state.
In the mid-'80s, the meet drew schools of all size classifications from around the state. It provided a top-notch event for track athletes to showcase their skills.
Many excellent Payson alumni participated in the invitational including Mark Hochstetler, Darren Reid, Todd Reid, Tim Ryden, Nicole Engstrom, and Lura Goldman.
In the mid-'90s, school officials and coaches felt the track facility wasn't in good enough shape to continue to attract premier prep athletes.
The good athletes hoping for college scholarships, the coaches reasoned, don't want to risk injury on a weathered and pitted dirt surface. It wasn't long before the once-heralded meet was discontinued.
Several years ago, coach Chuck Hardt and his staff decided to breathe life into the meet as a freshman/sophomore event. In the current format, freshmen compete against freshmen and sophomores against sophomores.
Also, several of the relays are coed, making the events some of the most unusual in the 3A conference.
Since its revival, the invitational has proven to be a popular meet for coaches searching to provide ample, but fair, competition for their younger athletes.
In the meet, untested freshmen are forced to pit their skills against the more experienced juniors and seniors.