The Class 4A Grand Canyon regional showdown action kicks off tomorrow in Flagstaff for the Payson High School cross country teams.
The results of the meet will be used to seed teams into the 4A state championship Nov. 8 at Anthem near Phoenix.
To earn berths to state, the Longhorns must finish among the top three teams at the regional finals.
Because Payson High competes in one of the most competitive cross country regions in the 4A conference, top-three finishes will be a huge challenge for both the boys and girls teams.
For the boys to earn a state ticket, the team will have to out-perform powerful squads representing Coconino, Flagstaff and Chinle. The girls must find a way to beat Flagstaff, Chinle and Sinagua.
The Longhorns tuned up for tomorrow's regional tussles at the Roadrunner Invitational Oct. 24 in Holbrook.
In the field of 19 boys teams were several of the schools that are members of the Grand Canyon region with Payson.
In boys meet results, the Longhorns finished fifth with 166 points. Powerful Coconino (73) claimed the Roadrunner title by outrunning Chinle (114), Winslow (124), and Flagstaff (138).
The fact that three Grand Canyon teams finished ahead of the Horns in the team standings probably means the PHS runners will have to show considerable improvement if Payson is to earn a state berth.
Individually at Holbrook, Tanner Morgan paced the Longhorns with a fifth-place finish in 17:14. Also competing for the PHS varsity were Brian Langeliers (27th; 17:59), Dustin Rodgers (36th; 18:08), Joe Behrens (43rd; 18:22), David Cluff (58th; 18:54), Carlos Lopez (63rd; 19:10) and Jeff Little (84th; 19:55).
In the varsity girls' competition, the Lady Longhorns compiled 304 points to finish ninth in the 17-team field.
Ganado (59) claimed the meet crown by outrunning a Round Valley team (108) led by former Payson cross country stars Whitney and Kari Hardt.
Flagstaff, the Lady Horn's stiffest competition for the Grand Canyon regional championship, turned in a third-place showing with a card of 114.
The Lady Horns were led by senior Jenny Cohen who was clocked in 21:36. Also from Payson were Alicia Huddlestun (43rd; 22:21), Lauren Stewart (50th; 22:38), Brianna Quinlan (91st; 24:54), Shanna Coleman (93rd; 24:58), Sarah Agnes (99th; 25:15) and Lacy Myers (99th; 25:16).
The younger set
For the PHS junior varsity teams, the invitational represented the runners' final competition of the fall season.
Among the 19 jayvee boys teams on hand, Payson (169) was fourth behind Chinle (17), Flagstaff (63), and Coconino (145).
Payson jayvee runners included Lance Chabot (11th; 19:09),Tommy Ashby (25th; 20:11), Bryson Addington (35th; 20:36), Jonny Malloy (44th; 21:11), Zack Belcher (54th; 21:55), Eric Lammers (63rd; 22:19), Tory Jenkins (64th; 22:20), Ryan Hillegas (65th; 22:24), Greg Lords (76th; 23:37), Hunter Hardt (79th; 23:35), Brendan VanZile (80th; 24:07) and Cade Connolly (86th; 25:39)..
In the girls competition, the Payson jayvees compiled 252 points to finish seventh overall. Flagstaff was first with just 50 points.
Yanni Krehbiels turned in Payson's top performance finishing 39th in 25:54.
Others were Molly Agnes (42nd; 26:25), Becca Sandoval (50th; 27:31), Crystal Sprinkle (60th; 28:22), Ashley Koch (61st; 28:25) and Hannah Lee (69th; 20:13).