Lady Horns Miss Out On Gold At Chandler


A speedy clocking that bettered the Payson High School 4x800 girls record by more than eight seconds wasn't enough to earn the Lady Longhorn relay team a gold medal Saturday at the 61st Annual Chandler Rotary relays.

The foursome of Leighann Haynes, Michelle Closs, Brooke Bennett and Whitney Hardt turned in a quick ET of 9:50.40 that easily bested the previous PHS standard (9:58.46).

The team, however, had to settle for second-place honors behind a lightning quick Tempe Desert Vista relay squad that captured the gold medal in 9:36.44. DV's dazzling mark obliterated the previous meet and field record (9:39.69) set a year ago by Tempe Mountain Pointe.

In breaking the Payson High record, the Lady Horn relay team sported a slightly different look than it had earlier this season. Amy Davis, who normally runs the second leg, was replaced on the team by junior Michelle Closs. Closs was able to earn a position on the talented squad in a for-all-the-marbles 800-meter runoff against Davis March 21 at the Bourgade Invitational. A strong finish helped Closs defeat Davis and earn a spot on the team.

While the PHS foursome had to take a back seat to Desert Vista at Chandler, the group can take solace in the fact the Tempe squad won't stand in the Lady Horns' state championship path.

Desert Vista, a school with over 3,000 students, will be competing in the 5A championships and Payson which has an enrollment of less than 1,000 will compete in the 3A gold-medal games.

Also at state, it's suspect whether any 3A schools can field a 3,200-relay team capable of keeping pace with the PHS crew.

But, as good as the team is, it has not yet reached its full potential, PHS coach Chuck Hardt said.

The relay team's efforts at Chandler helped propel the Lady Horns to a very respectable fifth-place finish in the 55-team field that included mostly 4A and 5A teams.

Tempe Mountain Pointe claimed the title with 90 points. Desert Vista (65.5) was second, Chandler (65) third and Mesa Mountain View (50) fourth.

With 31 points, Payson rested solidly in fifth, ahead of Glendale Mountain Ridge (28.5).

In addition to her exploits on the 4x800 squad, freshman Whitney Hardt turned in a fourth-place finish in the star-studded 800-meter field and a sixth in the 1,600 meters.

In the 48-runner 800 meters, Hardt churned out a school record ET of 2:20.12. The event champ, Sally Myerhoff of Mountain Pointe, was timed in 2:18. Myerhoff is one of the most acclaimed long-distance runners in the state.

In the 1,600 meters, Hardt set yet another school record, touring the course in 5:08.06. Jodie Denike of Chino Valley squeaked by Myerhoff for the gold medal. Denike was timed in 5:04.21 and Myerhoff in 5:04.23.

After watching the runners battle tooth and nail for four grueling laps, PHS coach Pete Greer tagged the race "the most competitive 1,600 ever at the Chandler Invitational."

Martinez cops two silvers

The Lady Horn effort in the field events was paced by senior Reanna Martinez who leaped her way to second-place honors in both the long and triple jumps.

In the long jump, Martinez soared 17 feet, 1 1/2 inches to finish as runner-up behind Nicole West of Shadow Mountain. West leaped 17 feet, 8 inches. Martinez's triple jump of 37 feet, 2 inches was second only to Saguaro's Nina Henson who set a new meet record of 38 feet, 3 inches.

The previous standard of 37 feet, 3 inches was set by Mountain View's April Steiner.

Also contributing to the Longhorn cause in Chandler were several other youngsters who turned in exceptional personal performances that fell a tad short of earning them a medal.

Among them were Brooke Bennett, Leighann Haynes, Lily Flores, Samantha Ellsworth and Shaylnn McGee.

In the 800 meters, Haynes finished 11th (2:27.70) and Bennett was 17th (2:29.89).

Flores was 45th in the 1,600 meters (6:02.94). In the 300-meter low hurdles, Ellsworth was timed in 50.56. McGee didn't make the finals of the 100-meter hurdles, but was timed in 17.67.

The Lady Horns will take a brief respite from competition before returning to action April 7 at the Chino Valley Invitational.

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