After watching the Lady Longhorns win three consecutive Class 3A state track and field championships and a girls state cross country crown last fall, Arizona high school coaches are trying to learn the secrets of Payson's success.
To accommodate fellow coaches, the Payson High staff has accepted an invitation to speak at the Arizona Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association annual convention Friday and Saturday at the Phoenix Crown Plaza Hotel.
PHS coaches Chuck Hardt, Pete Greer and Dan Reid are set to take the podium to discuss their winning ways.
Hardt, the current head coach, said he'll be speaking about "The Payson Program." In his presentation, he will share with the audience his philosophy on helping fledgling athletes mold themselves into becoming standout performers.
Hardt said his coaching methods probably involve "doing some things that other programs don't do."
For example, the PHS staff focuses mostly on building the strength of the younger team members, and they don't consider mileage a priority.
"We do a lot of strength work to get them strong," he said. "When they get older, we build on that with speed work."
Also, Hardt believes teaching is a huge part of the process of molding successful athletes.
"I'm convinced we have to teach the nervous system to run fast," he said.
Among the most successful athletes Hardt has helped tutor in the Payson program are Reanna Martinez and Stephanie Robertson. Martinez is currently a member of the Arizona State University track team and Robertson toils for the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks. During her years in the Payson program, Robertson set a state record in the heptathlon that still stands.
Half-miler Jennie Garrett was the first athlete to earn an individual state championship under Hardt's coaching.
Like Hardt, coach Greer has turned out a host of accomplished athletes including Jon Gunzel, Julie Gunzel, Jeremy Hoff and Sterling White. Both Gunzels and Hoff earned college scholarships. White was a state champion.
Specializing in coaching the throws events, Greer has been able to consistently provide Payson with a host of highly competitive athletes in both the shot-put and discus.
At the coaching convention, Greer's topic will cover how the PHS track and field program is set up for success, with each of the assistant coaches specializing in certain events.
Although Hardt carries the label of head coach, each assistant is considered a head coach in their specific events.
Greer focuses on the throws, Reid handles the jumpers and sprinters, Norm Langeliers oversees hurdlers and some sprinters and Hardt works with middle/long-distance runners and sometimes sprinters.
Hardt characterizes the program as one that has in place "a way for the athletes to become successful but eventually (the success) is up to them."
Reid will take to the convention floor more than three decades of coaching success, including three boys state championships and two state runner-ups during his PHS tenure.
Among his most successful athletes have been Bo Althoff, Mark Hochstettler, Nicole Engstrom and sons Darren and Todd Reid.
After leaving Payson, Engstrom went on to be elected the first female captain of the University of Arizona track and field team.
Hochstetler, who attended Stanford University, still holds the school's 800-meter record of 1:52.66.
Both Darren and Todd Reid excelled on the college level in Oklahoma and Althoff earned a scholarship to Arizona State University.
At the coach's convention, Dan Reid's presentation will feature "Workouts that Work." In it, he will detail practice sessions that have proven to be successful during his tenure. Among those workouts are ones very familiar to almost every former Payson High athlete. They include "Super Dawg," "Fast Waves" and "Stacks." Although they are arduous, and designed to measure levels of conditioning, Reid contends that youngsters look forward to the work- outs.