The Payson High School Longhorn track and field teams now know the road to East and 3A state honors travels through the Snowflake Lobos.
In a season-opening clash March 12 on PHS's new state-of-the art track facility, the Lobo boys beat Payson 78-62. The Lady Lobos were victorious over Payson by a 88-42 measure.
In the losses, Payson was without the service of several of its standout athletes who were sidelined for a variety of reasons. Some were injured, others were enjoying spring break vacation and some were held out because they had not yet rounded into top form. Following the meet, PHS coaches lauded several athletes for their outstanding performances. Among the gold-medal winners praised were Alex Cassuto (pole vault; 14 feet), Lucas Schmidt (discus; 144 feet, 8 inches) and Jake Swartwood (high jump; 6 feet, 2 inches).
Also finishing first were Andrew Karlowski (triple jump), Alex Winchester (shot put), Dustin Rodgers (800 meters) and Tanner Morgan (1,600 meters). (No times or distances available).
In the girls competition, Hillari Hardt (shot put; 32 feet, 4 inches and discus; 104 feet) and Jenny Cohen (800 meters and 1,600 meters) posted twin wins. The defending state champion girls 4x800 relay team of Alysha Huddleston, Megan Miles, Brianna Quinlan and Autumn Herrera continued their winning ways with a victory.
Silver medalists on the boys team included Chris Donaldson (100 meters), Brian Langeliers (1,600 meters), Matt McCarty (pole vault), Austin Davis (discus), Nicky Cassuto (high jump), Joe Behrens (800 meters) and Luke Apfel (200 meters).
For the Lady Longhorns, Ashley Geske (100 meters), Whitney Heizer (1,600 meters), Kari Flake (shot put) and Haylee Huff (300 hurdles) were second.
Third-place finishers in the boys competition were Nicky Cassuto (long jump), Chris Donaldson (high jump and 200 meters), Josh Sprinkle (triple jump) Nick Chapman (shot put) and Wellington Cassuto (discus).
For the Lady Horns, Crystal Sprinkle (1,600 meters), Shay McGee (400 meters), Brittany Owens (300 hurdles), Haylee Huff (high jump) and Kari Flake (discus) were third.
Following the twin losses to Snowflake, coach Chuck Hardt lauded Lobo teams as solid contenders for the East regional title.
The Lady Lobos, he predicted, also are strong enough to battle highly regarded Round Valley for the 3A state championship when it is decided May 16 and 17 in Queen Creek.
Both Longhorn teams return to action March 26 on the PHS track against Chandler Seton Catholic. Start time is 3:30 p.m.