The annual Sludge to the Judge cross country run, along with a football game against Blue Ridge, will highlight today's (Friday) Payson High School homecoming festivities.
At about 1:15 p.m., the Sawmill Mile middle school/ junior high cross country competition takes place. Following the Sawmill Mile, the boys cross country run kicks off at 1:30 p.m. It will be followed by a girls event at 1:45 p.m. The parade is slated to get under way at 2 p.m.
The football game kicks off at 7 p.m. in Longhorn stadium.
Among the teams on hand to participate in the Sludge to the Judge will be Round Valley, Blue Ridge, Cibecue and Fountain Hills. Other teams may participate, as the event was advertised on the Internet and will remain open for entries until start time.
The race begins at the Northern Gila County Sanitary District plant on Doll Baby Road and ends near the office of Justice of the Peace Ronnie O. McDaniel.
The location of the start and finish lines prompted the name "Sludge to the Judge."
Because the entire 2.3-mile course most of which is along Country Club and Main Street is uphill, the race has acquired a reputation as being especially grueling.
"There's probably a 400- to 500-feet elevation gain," coach Chuck Hardt said. "It's a pretty tough course."
The girls' record of 15:05 was set three years ago by former Lady Longhorn Whitney Hardt. Now a member of the Round Valley High School cross country squad, Whitney will be on hand today to try to better her record.
The boys standard of 12:49 is held by a former Cactus Shadows athlete.
At the conclusion of the event, Judge McDaniel will award plaques to the winners of both the boys and girls competition.
The top 10 finishers will receive souvenir T-shirts.
The race scoring is unusual for a prep meet in that it is a coed tabulation that calculates the scores of the top five boys and top five girls from each team.
The Longhorns tuned up for the homecoming run Oct. 18 at a six-team competition held over a 3.2-mile course at Crossroads Park in Gilbert.
In the boys race, the Horns won with a meet-low 30 points. Trailing the champs were Chandler Seton (37), Fountain Hills (57), Yuma Catholic (96), Higley (156) and Queen Creek (161).
In the field of 42 runners, Payson's Joe Behrens, who coach Hardt said "looked very strong," ran his way to the gold medal in 17:30.
Teammate Tanner Morgan was only one second behind Behrens.
"He ran his best race of the year," Hardt said.
Also representing Payson, Dustin Rodgers was fourth in 17:54 and Brian Langeliers finished fifth in 18:06.
Other Longhorn runners were Josh Sprinkle (19th; 20:44), Jonny Malloy (30th; 22:08) and Steve Colbertson (42nd; 28:54).
In the girls competition, the defending state champion Lady Longhorns had to settle for a third-place finish, with 59 points.
Chandler Seton was first (39) and Fountain Hills second (56).
Trailing the three leaders were Yuma Catholic (102), Higley (140) and Queen Creek (144).
Payson's season-long stalwart, senior Rachelle Jones, captured the first-place medal, touring the course in 20:52.
Autumn Herrera was eighth (22:16), Alesha Huddlestun 10th (22:30) and Becka Easton 17th (24:57).
"Our top four ran their best races of the year," Hardt said.
Other Payson runners were Brianna Quinlan (23rd; 26:34), Lacy Myers (28th; 27:21) and Crystal Sprinkle (34th; 28:49).