Staring at a boys team roster that included only a sprinkling of upperclassmen, Longhorn cross country coach Chuck Hardt bemused his lack of seasoned runners.
"Look at all those sophomores and freshmen," he said. "We are really young this year, probably the youngest we've ever been."
Due to the lack of letter-winners, the coach has withdrawn the team from an Oct. 6 meet at Cactus Shadows.
"I'd rather stay here and train than take these kids down there to get beat up," he said.
The lack of veterans also meant Payson could enter only two athletes in the open division of the Ray Wherley Invitational Sept. 11 at Prescott's Embry Riddle College.
"Only juniors and seniors could enter (the open division). We didn't have any others,"Hardt said.
The Horns two entrants, Kyle Pugel and Dillon Hedgepath, did not place. Over the three-plus mile course, Pugel was timed in 23:02 and Hedgepath in 26:19.
The swiftest time among the 14 Horn runners who entered was an 18:16 turned in by sophomore transfer Carlan Pontious. Since Pontious moved to Payson from Wisconsin last summer, Hardt has been predicting he could become the Horns' top gun. His performance at Prescott proved the coach was on target with his prognostication.
Payson's No. 2 runner, David Cluff, trailed Pontious by a full minute.
Both competed in the "Varsity 7" division with Carlos Lopez (19:16), Lance Chabot (19:19), Erik Monty (21:08), Martin Dorris (22:39) and Jonny Malloy (22:53).
In the Novice division, two Payson entrants earned medals for top-20 finishes.
Josh Lymer was 18th (20:43) and Bryson Addington hot on his heels in 19th (20:44).
Also in the division were Eric Lammers (22:19), Steve Gilson (22:38) and Issac Cluff (22:43).
The meet did not have a girls division.
Both Longhorn cross country teams spring back into action at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday) in the Four Corners Invitational at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff. The meet will feature many of the best teams in the state, including defending Grand Canyon region and Class 4A state champion Page.
The meet also will reunite a trio of young runners who last went head-to-head at the Monsoon 5K run Aug. 7 at Green Valley Park. In the town-sponsored event, Lopez won second place behind Page High School sensation Levi Lomeland, who set a Monsoon record of 16:38. Lopez was clocked in 17:40.
Pontious, who was laboring trying to adjust to Payson's elevation, was 11 seconds behind Lopez.
At Four Corners, Lomeland is one of the favorites to win the individual championship.