A disappointing turnout put a damper on what has traditionally been one of the most anticipated cross country runs of the fall sports season.
Fountain Hills was the only team to show up for the Sludge to the Judge homecoming run held Friday afternoon on Main Street.
Snowflake, Scottsdale Christian, Queen Creek and Blue Ridge originally indicated they were going to enter, but none of the four were in the field when the starting gun was fired.
Without those schools, only 15 runners participated in the girls run and 14 in the boys competition. Both events were dominated by Payson athletes who used the event to showcase their skills that have not been on local display since early September when a competition was held at Payson Golf Course.
In the final team scoring, the Lady Longhorns easily outdistanced Fountain Hills 15-48, as did their male counterparts who won 15-50.
In coed scoring, Payson was victorious 30-98.
The PHS victory means the traveling trophy that is annually awarded the Sludge to the Judge winner will remain in Payson for a sixth consecutive year.
Battling 92-degree fall temperatures that tested the mettle of all the athletes, the Lady Longhorns ran their way to the top six finishes.
Sophomore speedster Whitney Hardt led the Horn hit parade, finishing first in 15:06. Trailing her to the tape were Leighann Haynes (second; 16:00), Michelle Closs (third; 16:33), Shalynn McGee (fourth; 16:35), Lily Flores (fifth; 16:42) and Amy Davis (sixth 17:12). Also representing Payson were Rachelle McGee (ninth; 18:06) and Sarah Hummer (12th; 19:40).
The Longhorn boys also dominated FH, running their way to the top seven finishes.
Sophomore Dustin Rodgers outdueled teammate Joe Behrens for first-place honors. Rodgers was clocked in 14:02 and Behrens in 14:04. Brian Langeliers (14:18) finished third and Daniel Jacobs (14:57) was fourth. Martin Garcia (14:59) took sixth, Danny Malloy (14:59) claimed seventh, and Josh Dahm (15:01) was seventh. Also participating were Tanner Morgan (10th; 16:16) and Josh Sprinkle (13th; 17:12).
With the Sludge to the Judge now history, the Lady Longhorns will turn their attention to one of the state's most prestigious meets.
The Conley Invitational annually invites only the top-15 high school teams in the state regardless of school size classification 1A through 5A.
The Lady Horns, who are ranked seventh in the state, earned an invite to the meet, and will participate tomorrow (Saturday) in Tempe.
The boys team returned to action today (Friday) at the Alchesay Invitational in Whiteriver.