The Longhorn track team advances to the 4A state championship sporting a lineup bolstered by the presence of three regional champions, a top-rated relay team and a coach that was just named Grand Canyon "Coach of the Year."
The 4A state meet began yesterday (Thursday) at Mesa College and will wrap up tomorrow. (Thursday results were not available at press time).
At the conclusion of the Grand Canyon championships May 5-8 in Payson, Hardt was selected coach of the year for leading the Longhorns to the regional title.
The Horns team championship is the second consecutive crown the boys have won. Last year, the Horns captured the track title while Payson High was a member of the Class 3A East region.
In winning the Canyon title, the Horn cause received a king-sized boost from senior Mike Barr.
In only his first year of track competition, Barr won both the shot put and the discus.
His shot put heave of 48 feet, 1 1/4 inches edged him ever closer to the magical 50-foot mark that has been his goal since the onset of the season.
In the discus, his winning toss of 158 feet was a personal record.
Observers consider the twin wins a remarkable feat, mostly because as a rookie, Barr did not have years of experience and training to call upon.
Almost as astonishing as Barr's contributions, was the second place discus finish turned in by Wellington Cassuto (148 feet).
"Wellington's second was huge for us," Hardt said.
Sophomore Brian Schwind also did his share for the Payson effort winning the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 1 inch.
The 4x400 meter relay team of Joe Behrens, Dustin Rodgers, Brian Langeliers and Luke Apfel turned in a clocking of 3:28.95 to win top honors.
Among the few disappointments the Longhorns experienced in the finals was the second place showing of the school record holding 4x800 relay team of Tanner Morgan, Behrens, Langeliers and Rodgers.
The four entered the meet having lost only once all season long and widely regarded as among Arizona's best relay crews.
But the speedy Page foursome of Antonio Smith, Donovan Tsinnijjinnie, Leif Lomeland and Levi Lomeland overcame a Longhorn lead on the last lap to win in 8:07.55.
Although the silver medal was not what the team was hoping for, the four will have another shot at Page tomorrow.
Hardt has hinted that he might shuffle the running order of 4x800 team to help the team gain an edge at state. All four runners are seniors and will be participating in their final meet of their high school track careers.
Tyler Danielson earned a 4A berth with his second place regional finishes in the triple jump (41 feet, 7 3/4 inches) and long jump (19 feet, 9 inches).
Following the meet, Hardt praised Danielson saying he was among the Payson athletes who rose to the challenges of a state qualifying showdown and regional championship.
The 4x100 relay team of Todd Kreimeyer, Apfel, Danielson and Cassuto pocketed passage to Mesa by finishing second in 45.01. The winning Flagstaff Coconino team toured the PHS oval in 43.09.
Apfel also earned state berths in the 100 (third; 11:47) and 400 meters (third 51:56).
Kyle Hubbard nailed down spots at state by finishing second in the 110 hurdles (16.69) and third in the 300 hurdles (42.06).
The top three finishers in each event of the 4A regional championships are eligible to participate in the state competition.
In voting by region coaches, Page's Leif Lomeland was named the GC Athlete of the Year. Leif won the 800, 1600 and 3200 meter runs and was a member of the Sand Devils gold medal winning 4x800 relay team.
With four gold medals, he left little doubt in the coaches' minds as to who was the finest athlete in the region.