Longtime Payson High track and field coach Chuck Hardt is shouldering the blame for the Longhorn boys fourth-place finish at a four-way meet March 10 in Buckeye.
Hardt says he held some of his better performers out of their specialty events and switched others to events they had little experience in.
Also, long distance stalwart Tanner Morgan did not participate due to dental surgery he underwent days prior.
Hardt says he switched up the usual lineup as part of each individual's conditioning and training program. Since the Horns first meet of the year, March 2 in Flagstaff was canceled, the coach thought it was too early in the season to have his top athletes competing in more than two events.
"We didn't want to load them up," he said.
Prior to the meet, Hardt put the players through a conditioning workout. Hopefully, the strategy will lead to better times, distances and heights down the road.
The Longhorns finished with 57 points to trail meet champ Glendale Cortez (72), runner-up Glendale (64) and bronze medalist Buckeye (63).
In the girls competition, the Lady Horns easily ran away with the title posting 91 points. Cortez (66) was second, Buckeye (57) third and Glendale (26) was fourth.
For the boys team, speedy sophomore sprinter Luke Apfel won the 100-meter dash (11:65) and was second in the 200 meters (22:93). In winning the 100, Apfel nipped senior teammate J.R. Szabo (11:72) at the finish line.
The 4x400 relay team of Benny Hartnell, Brian Langeliers, Joe Behrens and Dustin Rogers won the gold medal in 3:36.
In the 110 hurdles, Brian Schwind captured second-place covering the distance in 17:79.
Freshman Carlos Lopez was third in the 1,600-meters (5:08).
For the Lady Horns, Krystal McRae sped her way to first place in the 100-meter hurdles (18:05). The 4x800 relay team of Lauren Stewart, Alesha Huddlestun, Becka Easton and Autumn Herrera also won a gold medal (no time available).
The 4x400 relay team of Amy Buckner, Tracy Fitzpatrick, Huddlestun and Herrera also finished first (4:40).
In the high jump, Melissa McLaws cleared 4 feet, 8 inches to take first. With a leap of 4 feet, 4 inches, Tiffany Moore was third. In the shot put, Kodi Kepp was first and Hillari Hardt second (no distances available). Senior Amy Wilcox took second in the pole vault by clearing 7 feet, 6 inches.
Both the boys and girls team practiced daily during the first week of the school's spring break. Hardt limited the past week's practice to weight training only.