Just when it looked as if there would be no Rim Country Middle School cross country program due to the lack of a qualified coach, a former Longhorn three-sport star stepped up to assume the coaching duties.
Byron Quinlan, 26, now an RCMS eighth-grade social studies teacher, has agreed to coach the team during the upcoming White Mountain League season.
Quinlan's last-minute hiring came as a sigh of relief to first-year RCMS athletic director Tim Fruth.
"We didn't want to have to end the (cross country) program and Byron is an excellent coach who'll be really good for the kids," Fruth said.
Quinlan is no stranger to Rim country sports circles. As a student at Payson High School, 1991 to 1995, he excelled in football, basketball and track and field.
His father, Jim Quinlan, was a longtime boys head basketball coach at PHS.
After graduating from Payson High with academic honors, Byron attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and graduated with a BS degree.
During the summer months of college, he returned to Payson to work in the Payson Ranger District on firefighting crews. Most recently, he has worked for the town of Payson Parks and Recreation Department.
Two years ago, he taught Special Education at Payson High School and coached the varsity boys soccer team.
After taking a one-year respite from teaching, he returned to the classroom this school year.
Quinlan said he was looking forward to the challenge of coaching the cross country team and felt the job would also afford him the chance to get in tip-top physical condition.
"I think I'll run everyday with them," he said.