The Coconino Invitational 5K cross country race Oct. 11 at Fort Tuthill near Flagstaff provided the Longhorns with an opportunity to preview most of the teams Payson will battle at the regional championships.
The regional meet, which will be used to seed runners into the state championships, is Nov. 1 in Flagstaff. The state championship is Nov. 11.
At the Coconino skirmish, Payson ran to a fifth-place finish with 135 points. The disturbing news for PHS fans is that Page, Chinle and Coconino, which also are Grand Canyon regional members, finished ahead of the Longhorns in the final standings.
With 81 points, runner-up Page trailed meet champion Hopi (61). Coconino took third posting 111 points and Chinle (133) was fourth.
Another Grand Canyon school, Flagstaff ran to sixth place with 144 points. Sinagua's 250 points and 10th-place showing probably means the Mustangs won't pose much of a threat to win the regional title.
The fact that three Grand Canyon teams finished in front of the Longhorns at the Coconino Invitational probably means the Rim runners will be practicing for improvement in the days leading up the regional finals.
Payson's best hope for an individual title could come from senior Tanner Morgan who ran to third place at the invitational. His clocking of 17:27 was only two seconds behind that of runner-up Forrest Boughner of Flagstaff. At regionals, Morgan will not have to contend with Coconino winner Stet Comayestewa because he competes for 3A Hopi.
Another runner who could forge his way into the top-10 in the region is Brian Langeliers. At Coconino, he finished 19th in 17:59.
The Longhorn cause also received solid efforts from Dustin Rogers (28th; 18:29) and Joe Behrens (36th; 18:40). Most of the season, Behrens has been slowed by a mysterious side stitch. According to coach Chuck Hardt, a correct diagnosis of the injury might have been recently made and the senior could be on the road to recovery.
Other varsity runners participating in the 84-runner field at Coconino include David Cluff (49th; 19:01), Carlos Lopez (58th; 19:35) and Lance Chabot (69th; 20:17).
In the 70-runner junior varsity field, Jeff Little took 16th in 20:16.
Other Longhorn jayvees were Jonny Malloy (26th; 20:49), Tommy Ashby (28th; 20:58), Bryson Addington (42nd; 22:02), Greg Lords (58th; 23:48) and Cade Connolly (60th; 24:09).
Accumulating 170 team points, the Longhorns finished fifth overall.
The varsity team springs back into running action Oct. 24 at the Holbrook Invitational.