A well-rounded team effort that produced nine gold medals lifted the two-time defending state champion Lady Longhorns to yet another meet crown.
In winning Saturday's Chino Valley Track and Field Invitational, the Lady Horns tracksters racked up 162 points to outdistance host Chino (114) and bronze medalist Seton Catholic (87). Trailing in the final standings were Parker (55), Flagstaff Coconino (54) and Fountain Hills (16).
The point total posted by the Lady Horns also paced the PHS boys and girls to the invitational's combined team championship.
When tacked onto the 40 points of the PHS boys, the sum (202) turned out to be a meet high. Chino Valley finished a close second with 199 points. Combining for 190, Coconino's boys and girls were third.
In running away with the two meet titles, the Lady Horns effort was led by the multiple gold-winning performances of Michelle Closs and Whitney Hardt.
Closs's first-place finishes were in the triple jump (29 feet), 4x800 relay (10:17) and 4x400 relay (4:00).
Whitney earned golds in the 400 meters (63.00), 4x800 relay and 4x400 relay).
Also on the 1,600-meter relay crew were Briauna Marshall and Samantha Ellsworth. Brooke Bennett and Jenny Cohen joined Closs and Hardt on the 3,200 team.
Entering Whitney in the 400-meter event represented a change of pace for the frosh running sensation. Normally, she's one of the state's best in 1,600 and 3,200 runs.
Switching her to a shorter, faster competition was part of the mid-season training strategy the PHS coaching staff has in place.
Several other athletes also were asked to compete in unusual events to aid in their speed and endurance training, coach Chuck Hardt said.
In addition to the golden contributions of Hardt and Closs, the Lady Horns' cause received a huge boost in the throws specialist Kaitlin Wilkins.
In the shot-put, the senior's heave of 31 feet, 2 1/4 inches produced a first-place finish. Her discus effort of 105 feet earned a second gold medal.
Other event-winning performances were turned in by Samantha Ellsworth (100-meter hurdles; 17.4), Brooke Bennett (1,600 meters; 5:54), and Briauna Marshall (300 hurdles; 50.96).
At it again
The Lady Horns returned to action Thursday in Lakeside at the Blue Ridge Invitational (results not available at press time).
On hand to battle the Lady Horns was most of the East powers including Snowflake, Show Low and Round Valley the same teams Payson will face at the regional championships May 4 and 5, also in Lakeside.
Saturday, April 14, the freshmen and sophomore members of the team travel to Apache Junction to participate in the Payson Rotary Club's Invitational Meet. The competition was moved to AJ due to construction currently under way on the Payson High School track.
The Rotary meet features a unique format with freshmen competing against freshmen and sophomores taking on sophomores. Also, some relays are coed. The meet will begin about 1 p.m.
The junior and senior members of the Lady Longhorn team spring back into action April 27 at the Winslow Invitational.
More results from Chino Valley
4x800 Michelle Closs, Brooke Bennett, Jenny Cohen, Whitney Hardt, 1st, 10:17.
100/110 Hurdles Sam Ellsworth 1st, 17.4; Brianna Marshall, 2nd, 18.14.
1600 Brooke Bennett, 1st, 5:54; Lily Flores, 3rd, 6:06.
4x100 Ashli Herrerra, 5th, 6:19; Jana Knighton, Jenny Cohen, Brianna Marshall, Sam Ellsworth, 54.82.
400 Whitney Hardt, 1st, 63.04; Jenny Cohen, 2nd, 65.76.
300 Hurdles Brianna Marshall, 1st, 50.96; Samantha Ellsworth, 2nd, 52.00; Rachelle McGee, 5th, 58.02.
800 Brooke Bennett, 2nd, 2:35.
3200 Lily Flores, 2nd, 13:15; Ashli Herrerra, 5th, 13:59.
4x400 Brianna Marshall, Michelle Closs, Whitney Hardt, Samantha Ellsworth, 1st, 4:28.
High Jump Vanessa McGlothin, (tie) 4th, 4-2.
Long Jump Brooke Bennett, 3rd, 14-10-1/2.
Discus Kaitlin Wilkins, 1st, 105; Hillary Hardt, 3rd, 83-6; Kari Flake, 5th, 79-4
Shot-put Kaitlin Wilkins, 1st, 31-2-1/4; Hillary Hardt, 3rd, 28-6-1/4; Kari Flake, 4th, 27-9-3/4.