A shutout in three events 100 meters, 200 meters and the triple jump wasn't enough to slow the Lady Longhorns express as it steamed toward the championship of the Desert Classic Invitational track and field meet.
In winning the title Saturday, March 2 on the campus of Canyon State Academy in Queen Creek, the three-time defending state champion Lady Horns racked up 118 1/2 points.
Trailing the Lady Horns in the 22-team meet were Queen Creek (98 1/4), Winslow (88 1/2) and Valley Christian (86 1/2).
Sophomore running sensation Whitney Hardt, who was voted "Best Female Athlete" at the conclusion of the competition, posted many of the Lady Horns' points.
Hardt won the 800- (2:20), 1,600- (5:22.9) and 3,200-meter runs (11:23). She also ran a leg of the 4x800-meter relay team that won the gold medal in 10:14. Hardt was joined by Jenny Cohen, Michelle Closs and Leighann Haynes.
Payson's 3,200-meter relay crew opened this season as two-time defending state champions and appear poised to make a run at a three-peat.
Haynes also contributed silver medalist points in the 800- (2:27), 1,600- (5:31.4) and 3,200-meters (12:05).
Amy Davis provided runner-up points in the pole vault by clearing 8 feet 6 inches. With the vault, she earned an outside qualifying berth into the Class 3A state championships May 10 and 11.
The times of Hardt, Haynes and the 4x800 relay team were also good enough for a state-qualifying berth.
The only other top-three finisher in the Longhorn fold at the Classic was Shalynn McGee. Her leap of 4 feet 8 inches was good enough for the high jump bronze medal.
Other Payson point producers included Lily Flores (1,600, eighth; 3,200, fourth), McGee (100 hurdles, fifth; 300 hurdles, sixth), Hillari Hardt (shot-put, eighth; discus, fifth), Autumn Herrera (800, seventh; high jump, tie for fifth), Haylee Huff (high jump, tie for fifth) and Sara Hummer (discus, sixth).
The 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams also contributed to Payson's victory. Cohen, Huff, Davis and Megan Branstetter paced the 4x400 team to fourth place. Branstetter, Cohen, McGee and Huff were fifth in the 4x100 event.
The Lady Horns return to action Saturday, March 16 at the North Canyon Invitational.