Jenny Cohen's cross country debut turned into everything it was expected to be, as she helped the Lady Longhorns win their season opener.
Participating in her first-ever cross country race, the speedy senior ran her way to second place in the 40-runner field that turned out Sept 3 for the Lady Longhorns season-opening meet at Payson Golf Course.
Last August, when Cohen opted to turn out for the team, coach Chuck Hardt was cautiously optimistic she had the makings of an outstanding long-distance runner.
Hardt's confidence in Cohen was fueled by her performances last spring on the Lady Horn track and field team. In the 1,600-meter run, Cohen had posted an impressive clocking of 5:24.
The only knock on Cohen was that she had to be able to leg out those types of efforts over longer distances. At the season opener, she proved herself on the 3.2-mile circuit course at PGC. Cohen turned in a 21:55 clocking that was just five seconds behind the winning time of a Flagstaff Sinagua runner.
Cohen's contributions helped fuel the Lady Longhorns to first-place finish in the seven-team field. The Lady Horns posted a meet-low 39 points to best Scottsdale Christian (56), Sinagua (62), Mingus (69), Snowflake (106), Blue Ridge (110) and Show Low (110).
In addition to Cohen's quality performance, the Lady Horn cause received a much-needed boost from fifth-place finisher Alesha Huddlestun (24:15).
When preseason practices began, returning letter-winners Autumn Herrera, Becka Easton and Huddlestun were expected to provide much of Payson's running punch. Huddlestun's value to the team increased dramatically when Herrera and Easton quit the squad a week before the season opener.
Because Huddlestun was a seventh-place finisher at last seasons 3A East championships, her continued presence on the team adds a good deal of experience and leadership.
Untested duo step up
In the Horns' win at PGC, Hardt might have found a pair of runners to fill the void created by the departure of Herrera and Easton. Junior Yani Krehbiel and freshman running sensation Lauren Stewart both chalked up top-10 performances. Although the two were both timed in 27:04, Krehbiel was officially scored the ninth place finisher and Stewart took 10th.
If both continue to improve, the duo could team with Cohen and Huddlestun to give Payson four topnotch runners.
Also showing considerable promise in the meet were Shanna Coleman (13th; 27:29), Lacy Myers (14th; 28:05), Ashley Koch (16th; 28:23), Molly Agnes (17th; 28:30) and Sarah Agnes (18th; 28:43).
Other Lady Longhorn runners included Krystal McRae (27th; 31:33), Hanna Lee (28th; 31:37), Crystal Sprinkle (29th; 31:38) and Becca Sandoval (38th; 37:38).
The Four Corners Invitational Sept. 20 in Flagstaff will provide the Lady Longhorns with their next opportunity to showcase and improve their running skills. The team will return to action in Payson during the Sludge to the Judge Homecoming at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 3 along Main Street.