Competing against some of the best cross country teams in the state, the Longhorn boys ran their way to an eighth-place finish in a 20-school field Sept. 21 in the Four-Corners Invitational.
Top honors in the meet went to Flagstaff Coconino, which beat Hopi by a single point for the meet crown.
Coconino tallied 66 points and Hopi had 67. Payson finished with 280.
The good news in Flagstaff was that none of the seven teams that finished ahead of Payson in the final standings were from the 3A East region.
In fact, five of the teams that bested the Longhorns were from the 4A ranks.
Representing the East, Blue Ridge finished 13th (337) and Snowflake was 16th (437).
By whipping Blue Ridge and Snowflake, the Horns became one of the favorites to win the East title when the championships are contested Nov. 1 in Alchesay.
The homestanding Falcons, which edged the Horns by four points for last season's title, could again be Payson's biggest obstacle in earning a regional crown.
Joe Behrens led the Longhorn charge at Four Corners, finishing 25th overall in 18:17.
The individual champion, Prescott's Doug Clark, toured the mountain course in 16:16.
Payson's Tanner Morgan finished 28th in the 112-runner field. His time of 18:22 was 35 seconds faster than what he ran on same course during the season-opening Peaks Invitational.
Dustin Rodgers turned in a 19:01 effort and finished 41st. Daniel Jacobs (84th; 21:21) and Steve Colbertson (102nd, 22:26) also represented the Longhorns.
Next up for Payson is the Blue Ridge Invitational tomorrow (Saturday) in Lakeside. Start time is 1 p.m.
The highlight of the home campaign will be the Sludge to the Judge run at 3 p.m. Oct. 25. The run is a traditional highlight of Payson High School's homecoming activities.