What a difference a new track can make.
Last spring, the Payson High School track and field coaching staff couldn't entice a single opposing team to travel to the Rim country.
The deteriorating condition of the old dirt track surface had coaches believing their athletes could suffer lingering or season-ending injuries.
Now that the dirt track has been replaced by a state-of-the-art all-weather running surface, opponents are clamoring to travel to Payson.
At least seven home track meets are now on the Longhorn schedule and a USA youth meet could be held at PHS this summer.
The long-awaited new track successfully weathered its second meet of the season March 26 in a clash pitting Payson against Class 4A Flagstaff Sinagua.
The meet was a preview of Payson's sports future.
Next school year when Payson High moves to the 4A conference, Sinagua and the Longhorns will be fellow members of the Grand Canyon region.
While the new PHS track was a success Wednesday, the visiting Mustangs weathered under the relentless attack of the highly talented boys track and field team.
In waxing Sinagua 98-43, the Longhorns showcased a team that could make a run at the East region championship and possibly a Class 3A title.
Spear-heading the Longhorn attack against the Flagstaff school was senior hurdler/ jumper Chris Donaldson.
In both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, Donaldson sped his way to first-place finishes. In the 110, he was clocked in 15.3. His 300-meter hurdle ET of 43.0 was three-tenths of a second quicker than teammate and runner-up Jake Swartwood.
In the high jump, Donaldson tied for first place with teammates Nick Cassuto and Swartwood. All cleared 6-feet.
In addition to tying for the high jump title, Nick Cassuto won the long jump with a leap of 18 feet, 1 inches. Nick's brother Alex claimed the pole vault crown by clearing 14 feet.
Other first-place finishers for Payson included Luke Apfel (100 meters; 11.6), Joe Behrens (1,600 meters; 5:01 and 800 meters; 2:09), Andrew Karlowski (triple jump; 39 feet, 4 inches) and Lucas Schmidt (shot put; 39 feet, 3 inches and discus (161 feet, 3 inches).
Payson top-three finishers
Payson 98 Sinagua 43
4x800 Relay: 1st, Sinagua 10:03
110 Hurdles: 3rd, Jake Swartwood, 15.7
100 meters: 1st, Luke Apfel, 11.6; 2nd, Darryl LeSueur, 11.7
1600 meters: 2nd: Dustin Rodgers, 5:02.4; 3rd: Tanner Morgan, 5:02.7
4x100 Relay: 1st: Sinagua, 45.8
400 meters: 2nd, Benny Hartnell, 57.4
300 Hurdles: 2nd, Jake Swartwood, 43.3
800 meters: 2nd, Dustin Rodgers, 2:12.4; 3rd, Brian Langeliers, 2.13.2
200 meters: 2nd, Darryl LeSueur, 24.1; 3rd, Andrew Karlowski, 24.7
3200 meters: 3rd Steven Colbertson, 13.12
4x400 Relay: 1st, Payson 3:45
Long Jump: 2nd, Andrew Karlowski, 18'1"
Triple Jump: 2nd, Josh Sprinkle, 6'6"
Shot put: 1st, Lucas Schmidt, 39'3"; 3rd, Lee Nelson, 36'8.5"
Discus: 2nd, Wellington Cassuto, 109'10"; 3rd, Lee Nelson, 108'1"