Payson High School's sophomore running sensation, Whitney Hardt, sprinted her way to a first-place finish at the 3.2-mile Four Corners Invitational meet Saturday at Flagstaff's Buffalo Park.
Hardt a state runner-up as a freshman toured the course in 20.04 to easily outdistance a Marana Mountain View runner who finished as runner-up in 20:08. Hardt's time was 19 seconds off what she turned in two weeks ago at the Peaks Invitational on the same course.
PHS coach Chuck Hardt said slower times were the norm at the meet because the start time was moved up and jayvee and varsity runners were placed in the same field with varsity due to the threat of lightning. Because of the early start, Hardt said, players didn't have the chance to hydrate themselves and many had just finished eating their lunches.
In winning the race, Whitney paced the team to a second-place showing behind the state's top-ranked team Flagstaff. The final tallies reveal the powerful Eagles were first with 51 points. Payson (64), Hopi (81) and Marana (86) trailed in the 17-team field.
Also participating for the Lady Longhorns were Leighanne Haynes (12th; 21:55), Lily Flores (13th; 22:01), Shalynn McGee (16th; 22:21), Michelle Closs (22nd; 22:49) and Rachelle McGee (48th; 24:49).
The meet marked Haynes' 2001 debut one of the Lady Horn's top two runners last season. With Haynes now in the Longhorn fold, the team is a strong threat to earn the school's first cross country championship.
The boys team
In a 17-team field that included some of the best in the state, the Longhorns finished ninth, with 251 points. Hopi (63) was first; Flagstaff Coconino (81) second; and Winslow (91) third.
Sophomore Dustin Rogers paced the Horns in Flagstaff with a 34th-place effort in 19:19. Others participating were Brian Langeliers (46th; 19:52), Daniel Jacobs (51st; 20:14), Danny Malloy (59th; 20:48) and Martin Garcia (61st; 20:53).