Longtime track and field coach Dan Reid knows all too well that life in the "big school" 4A conference can be rough on small-town athletes.
"It's pretty difficult to get to state; only the top three (from regional meets) qualify," he said. "When we were 3A, the top-four went (to state)."
The more stringent qualifying standards of the 4A conference means the Longhorns were only represented by eight athletes when the state championships began yesterday at Mesa Community College.
The state meet continues with preliminaries today at MCC before wrapping up with final events tomorrow.
The PHS athletes who advanced to state earned their berths with top-three finishes at the Grand Canyon regional championships May 6 and May 7 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
The Longhorns lone first-place qualifier, Brian Schwind, advances to state as the GCR high jump champion with a 6-foot, 4-inch leap.
That mark, however, might not be his best for long.
"I think he can go higher than that, at least 6-5, and maybe more," Reid said. "The best in the state now is about 6-8, I think Brian can jump with him."
Schwind also will compete in the long jump at state having finished third in the GCR championships with a personal best leap of 20 feet, 6 inches.
He narrowly missed qualifying in the triple jump finishing fourth in the GCR games at 40 feet, 9 inches.
Payson will be represented in the shot-put and discus by senior Wellington Cassuto who finished second in both events at the GCR finals.
In the shot-put, he uncorked a throw of 42 feet, 5 inches that was about 1 foot shy of his PR.
His discus throw of 144 feet, 6 inches was a personal best.
In the sprints, Brandon Echols advanced to state as a GCR bronze medalist. His times of 11.76 in the 100 meters and 23.96 in the 200 meters earned him third places in both events.
Echols is also a member of the 4x100 relay team that earned a visit to state by virtue of a runner-up finish in Flagstaff. On the team with Echols are Joe Blackburn, Schwind and Cassuto. The team's clocking of 45.15 in the GCR meet was its best this season by about two-tenths of a second.
The regional championships almost turned into the heartbreak of defeat for sophomore Carlan Pontious when he finished fourth in the 800 meters, 1600 meters and as a member of the 4x400 relay team.
Pontious finally garnered a coveted state berth when he anchored to 4x800 relay team to a third-place showing. On the team with Pontious are David Cluff, Eric Monty and Carlos Lopez.
The team's time of 8:34.86. was just three-tenths of a second behind the clocking of the runner-up foursome from Page.
As a team, the Horns finished third with 78 points. Posting 134, Flagstaff claimed the region crown. Page was runner-up with 188.