The Longhorn boys track and field team projected to be much better than last year's squad that finished ninth in the state struggled to an eighth-place showing at the 22-team Desert Classic Invitational held Saturday in Queen Creek.
In the season opener, the Horns produced just 22 team points and didn't come away with a gold or silver medal.
The best showings from Payson a pair of third-place finishes were turned in by Blake Whetten and the 4x800 relay team of Joe Behrens, Brian Langeliers, Dustin Rogers and Daniel Jacobs.
In winning the bronze medals, Whetten cleared 6 feet in the high jump and the relay team was clocked in 9:06.
Rapidly improving Lucas Schmidt copped a fourth in the shot-put with a heave of 46 feet 6 inches. If Schmidt can improve enough to reach the magical 50-foot mark, he could become a title threat once East regional competition rolls around.
Others who participated for Payson were Chris Donaldson (300 hurdles, fifth; high jump, sixth); Danny Malloy (400 meters, sixth); and Alex Cassuto (pole vault, eighth).
With a clocking of 11:25, Langeliers was eighth in the 3,200-meter run.
The 4x100 relay team of Josh Sprinkle, Malloy, Logan Mileham and Andy Sargeant was sixth, with a time of 46.5.
Also finishing sixth (3:56) was the 4x400 foursome of Sprinkle, Malloy, Jacobs and Matt McCarty.
The Valley Christian team that posted 90 points took the meet championship. With 78 1/2, St. Johns was second.
Next up for the Horns is the North Canyon Invitational Saturday in Phoenix.