A two-week break from competition has both the boys and girls Payson High cross country team's eager to return to the athletic arena.
They'll do just that Sept. 20 when the teams travel to Flagstaff Buffalo Park to compete in the prestigious Four Corners Cross Country Invitational.
In the meet, the PHS runners will lock horns with many of the same topnotch squads the Longhorns faced the last time they were in action, Sept. 6 at the Flagstaff Peaks Invitational. That competition also was held over a 5K course at Buffalo Park.
Page, Chinle, Flagstaff and Coconino are the favorites in the boys field. All four teams are members of the 4A Grand Canyon region along with Payson.
In the Four Corners girls' field, favorites will include Round Valley, Flagstaff, Sinagua and Tempe Desert Vista.
Individually, the Lady Longhorns have been paced in both their early season meets by senior Jenny Cohen. At the Peaks meet, she finished 40th in the 196-runner field. She was clocked in 21:37.
At a seven-way meet Sept 3 at Payson Golf Course, Cohen finished second just five seconds behind a Sinagua runner.
Because she did not compete in cross country her first three years at PHS, Cohen is still learning the nuances of the sport. However, she is buoyed in the sport by her considerable experience as a 1,600-meter runner on the track team..
In addition to Cohen, Alesha Huddlestun, Yani Krehbiel and Breanna Quinlan will be solid team representatives at the meet.
For the boys team, Tanner Morgan has been the No. 1 runner in early season showings. At Peaks, he ran his way to ninth place in the 238-runner field. In the season opening Payson meet, he was first.
The Longhorns, who could contend for the Grand Canyon region title, probably have more depth this season than any previous PHS boys squad.
Brian Langeliers, Dustin Rodgers, Jon Behrens, David Cluff and Jeff Little are among the running stalwarts on the roster. At Peaks, Langeliers was 41st and Rodgers 43rd. Behrens finished 84th, Cluff was 152nd and Little took 205th.
The contingent of Payson runners will return to Buffalo Park Saturday with the benefit of additional conditioning and the all-important experience of having run the course previously.
Following the Four Corner meet, the Longhorns return to action Sept. 27 at the Blue Ridge Invitational in Lakeside.