One year ago, the new millennium opened with a bang when the Payson High School wrestling team grappled its way to a fifth consecutive state championship.
By spring, the Lady Longhorn track and field team had handed Payson High its second state crown of the year. In the professional baseball draft, Payson sports fans cheered as former Longhorn pitching star Tom Canale was chosen by the Cleveland Indians.
After a relatively quiet summer, the sports scene heated up when the Tonto Apache Track and Field team was proclaimed the Grand Canyon Games Athletes of the Year. The honor resulted in a long list of personal appearances by team members at Grand Canyon ceremonies.
The highlight of the fall season was the incredible running performance turned in by PHS freshman Whitney Hardt at the state championships. After taking a wrong turn late on the course, Hardt recovered to finish second in the Class 3A competition only an eyelash behind the winning runner.
The top 10 of 2000:
Feb. 15 Horns survive to win No. 5
Relishing the role of the underdogs, the Longhorn wrestling team edge pre-tournament favorite Winslow 194.5-179 to win the 2000 Class 3A state championship.
The triumph at Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum represented the fifth consecutive state crown for Payson High and the 10th overall.
The win also served as revenge of sorts for a 36-30 dual meet loss to Winslow Jan. 5 in Wilson dome.
Feb. 18 Daniels steps down as Lady Horns' coach
Unable to find enough hours in the day to meet the demands of his profession, veteran Lady Longhorn basketball coach Jerry Daniels resigned only weeks after Dave Greiner stepped down as the boys soccer coach.
Both coaches cites similar reasons for their decision to leave their respective teams: they wanted to spend more time with their families.
"I want to spend more time with my family and be able to support the two boys I have coming up." Daniels said.
March 10 LaHaye tapped to All-Arizona team
Payson High School junior R.C. LaHaye was named to the prestigious All-Arizona wrestling first team. The award is given annually to the state's most outstanding wrestler in each weight division, regardless of the school size they represent.
The only other Payson wrestler to earn first-team status was Christopher Pirch three years ago.
March 28 Coach Beall resigns from football program
The football coach who led the Longhorns to three consecutive post-season tournaments and the 1998 state title resigned his coaching position at Payson High School.
Citing an increasing classroom workload that restricts the time and energy he can put into the football program, Jim Beall submitted his letter of resignation in March to district superintendent Herb Weissenfels.
After learning of the resignation, PHS athletic director Barry Smith lauded the former coach for "putting his heart and soul into the program."
March 31 Bradley named 'Outstanding Prep Scholar-Athlete'
The Valley of the Sun Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame named Cade Bradley one of the state's Outstanding Prep Scholar-Athletes in March at its annual banquet ceremonies at the Marriott Mountain Shadows Resort in Phoenix.
Only 13 high school students in Arizona were chosen for the awards from among 63 nominees sent in by high school coaches and athletic directors.
Bradley is the first Payson High School student to receive the scholar athlete award that has been given annually since 1971.
April 28 Cleveland drafts former Payson High pitching star
A young man who spent his teenage years unleashing fastballs from the Payson High School pitching mound might soon be toeing the rubber in major league stadiums.
Twenty-year-old Tom Canale, a Longhorn pitching star from 1984 to 1987, was picked in the professional baseball draft in April by the Cleveland Indians. He was drafted in the 12th round the 306th pick.
Canale who acquired the nickname "Tommy Gun" for his rapid fire delivers as an all-star pitcher at Payson high said he's glad the suspense of the draft is over.
"Now I can go play," he said. "That's what I've been waiting for."
May 16 Girls win second state title
Fueled by a second-day come-from-behind effort, the Lady Longhorn track and field team won its second consecutive Class 3A state championship.
Racking up 194 team points, the Horns were the class act of the tournament contested in May at Chandler High School. The Snowflake Lady Lobos an East region rival finished a distant second, tallying 118 points.
Payson might not have emerged champions had it not been for the second-day heroics that produced 76 points. At the conclusion of the opening day, Snowflake led with 58. Scoring 42, Payson was second and Safford (30) third.
Sept. 15 Tonto Apaches tapped as top athletes
One of the most unique decisions in the eight-year history of the Grand Canyon State Games was announced in September when officials chose the Tonto Apache Track and Field teams as the organization's Male and Female Athletes of the Year.
In past years, the prestigious award has gone to the individual male and female athletes who have excelled in the annual amateur competition.
But this year, GC games executive director Erik Widmark and his staff opted to give the two awards to the Tonto boys and girls teams.
The reason officials decided to break with tradition and tap the local teams, Widmark said, was partly due to the success of the Tonto Apache contingent at both the Tucson and Tempe games last summer.
The team has won over 100 GC medals during the past four seasons.
Oct. 24 Payson athlete named Special Olympics 'Most Inspirational'
The surprise announcement that he'd won the most prestigious honor given out by Arizona Special Olympics left a Payson athlete visibly shaken.
"When they called my name, all my teammates started cheering I was kind of scared and my hands were shaking," 20-year-old Tim Meeske said.
Meeske, who's been competing in Special Olympics for the past 12 years, was named "The Most Inspirational Athlete" at the Arizona state games in Scottsdale.
The proclamation declaring him the honoree came at the traditional Olympic victory dance and celebration held at West World Oct. 14 when the games concluded.
According to longtime Northern Gila County SO coordinator and coach Becky Derwort, Meeske's achievement marked the first time the award has been bestowed on a Rim country Special Olympian.
On Dec. 19, Payson Special Olympian David Frohme brought home the bacon from the state championship bowling competition in Tucson by being named "Most Inspirational Athlete" out of 3,000 competitors.
Special Olympics coach Annie Spencer said Frohme's dedication to Special Olympics and the public relations he does in the community when he comes back from these competitions was a major reason for Frohme receiving the award.
Nov. 7 Whitney leads Hardt's charges at cross country championship
The gutsy accomplishment that has drawn raves from around the state was Payson High School freshman Whitney Hardts' second-place finish at the Arizona state cross country championships held Saturday in Gilbert.
Running what was probably the most inspired race in the eight-year history of the sport at PHS, the diminutive 14-year-old came within an eyelash of winning the school's first individual state cross country title.
On championship Saturday over a 3.1-mile wet and muddy Freestone Park course, Whitney was nipped at the finish line by Chino Valley's Jodie Denike.
Meet officials tapped Denike the victory on the "lean," but both runners were awarded identical times of 19:31.