Just over the Longhorn horizon awaits one of the most competitive cross country events in the state.
The annual Four Corners run, Sept. 18 in Flagstaff, draws most of Arizona's best teams that each year battle for state championship honors in all school size classifications.
Grand Canyon Region and Class 4A state champion Page, the defending champion, is among the meet favorites this year.
For the Longhorns to keep pace with the Dust Devils' talented stable of runners, the team will need personal best performances from the top five of Carlan Pontious, Carlos Lopez, David Cluff, Martin Dorris and Erik Monty.
Those runners had the opportunity to preview many of the athletes they will clash with at Four Corners during the running of the Peaks Invitational Sept. 4 in Flagstaff. There, 244 of Arizona's best gathered for the season-opening meet.
Pontius led the Longhorn charge finishing 28th overall in 17:41. The winning time was 16:32. Lopez finished 66th in 18:31 and David Cluff turned in a clocking of 18:49 to take 85th. Trailing were Dorris (178th; 20:36) and Monty (180th, 20:39).
In the junior varsity competition that drew 184 runners, freshman Issac Cluff was 139th (24:32).
The Longhorns' pursuit of prep honors continued Sept. 8 at a four-way meet on the Payson Golf Course.
The Horns claimed first-place honors with a tally of 39, fueled by a second-place finish in 17:49 by Pontious. Mingus (45) was second, Sinagua (68) third and Blue Ridge (69) trailed.
Although Blue Ridge was the meet cellar dwellers, the team did feature the winning runner who nipped Pontious by three seconds. (17:46). The course record of 17:27 was set in 2000 by Aaron Dahl of Scottsdale Christian.
The Horns received a boost from Lopez, a sophomore, who took fourth in 18:27. David Cluff was seventh (19:17) and Monty finished 12th (20:30). Josh Lymer took 14th (20:42), Jonny Malloy captured 24th (21:47) and Dorris struggled to a 26th place-finish covering the about three mile course in 22:20.
Other Payson entries in the 47 runner field included Kyle Pugel (30th; 23:04), Steve Gilson (32nd; 23:16), Casey Randel (38th; 24:05), Issac Cluff (42nd; 24:23) and Dillon Hedgepeth (46th; 26:51).
In addition to the upcoming Four-Corners competition, the Horns have the annual Sludge to the Judge homecoming run Sept. 24. Start time is about 1:30 p.m. near the Northern Gila County Sanitary District plant. The run proceeds east on Main Street, wrapping up near the offices of Justice of the Peace Ronnie McDaniel. The sites of the start and finish lines were used in naming the event. Notre Dame, Blue Ridge, Mingus and Tucson Mountain View are scheduled to participate in the annual showdown.