The Longhorn track and field teams make their 2004 home debut March 30 in a three-way meet involving Flagstaff Sinagua and Snowflake. Start time for junior varsity and varsity field events is 3 p.m.
The meet will allow local fans the opportunity to preview one of the state's premier 4x800 relay teams. Tanner Morgan, Brian Langeliers, Dustin Rodgers and Joe Behrens are expected to be on hand. Morgan has recently been sidelined by dental surgery, but coaches anticipate he'll be at full strength for the home opener.
The foursome churned out a school record 8:18.9 at the Desert Classic Invitational meet March 5 at Queen Creek High School. The time broke the school record of 8:20.4 the team set at last year's Class 3A state championship meet.
As seniors, the four have the experience, maturity and moxie to set a standard almost anytime they take to the track. In the 4x400 relay, Langeliers, Behrens and Rodgers often team with Benny Hartnell to give the Longhorns another powerful squad.
When the four are not running relays, they are usually shining in the middle- and long-distance runs. Behrens, Rodgers and Langeliers excel in the 800 meters.
Morgan's best events are the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Freshman Carlos Lopez teams with Morgan to give the Horns two talented 1,600-meter runners.
In addition to the state-class roster of middle/long distance performers, the Longhorns feature sophomore sprinter Luke Apfel. Football fans will remember Apfel as the elusive running back who preformed well early in the season before being hampered by a groin injury
At the season-opening Desert Classic track meet, Apfel finished second in the 100 meters and third in the 200 meters.
A week later at a four-way Buckeye meet, Apfel won the 100-meter dash and was second in the 200 meters.
Senior J.R. Szabo has drawn double duty of running the sprints and throwing the shot put.
Not many prep athletes excel in such diverse events, but Szabo has proven he has both strength and quickness. At Buckeye, Szabo finished second in the 100 meters behind Apfel. In the shot put, he's nearing throws of 40 feet.
The Lady Horns
Like their male counterparts, the Lady Longhorns feature two good relay teams. The 4x800 squad of Lauren Stewart, Alesha Huddlestun, Becca Easton and Autumn Herrera was first at the Buckeye showdown.
Huddlestun and Herrera hooked up with Amy Buckner and Tracy Fitzpatrick to win the 4x400 relay.
The lineup also features Kodi Kepp and Hillari Hardt in both the shot put and discus. In the hurdles, Brittany Owens, Krystal McRae and Tiffany Moore have shown promise.
In early season, Melissa McLaws has entered both the high jump and triple jump. Others to watch in the upcoming meet are Lacy Myers (400 meters), Amy Wilcox (pole vault), Kendra Francs (triple jump) and JoLyn Mendoza (1,600 meters).
Fans should remember when attending the meet that the PHS coaching staff often shuffles athletes in and out of certain events as a part of their training regimes.
Other home meets are slated for Payson April 8 (Mogollon), April 21 (Mingus and Mogollon), April 24 (Freshmen/Sophomore Invitational), April 30 (Payson Relays), and May 7 and 8 (4A Grand Canyon Region championships).