The performance of freshman Panda Stackhouse in the 400-meter dash was a real surprise at the Grand Canyon Region track and field championships.
The fledgling runner shocked almost everyone by sprinting her way to a third-place finish and a berth in the Class 4A state championship.
"Actually, we were just happy that she made it into the finals," assistant coach Dan Reid said. "When she got there, she really seized the opportunity."
In the preliminaries, she narrowly made the cut for the final events, finishing eighth in 1:08.22. Her place represented the last qualifying spot for 400-meter finals.
Rising to the occasion like a seasoned veteran rather than a rookie competing in her first conference championship, Stackhouse blazed to a 1:05.59 clocking and the GCR bronze medal.
The finish earned her a seed in the 4A state championships, which will be held May 12 to May 14 at Mesa Community College.
Stackhouse's freshman teammate Janet Echols turned in a 1:06.51 clocking and finished fifth in the event.
Following the meet, Reid praised the performances of the two rookie sprinters.
"They both have a chance to be really, really good," he said.
Echols qualified for state on the Lady Longhorns 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay teams.
Although Echols fifth-place finish in the 400 meters wasn't good enough for a state seed, she did earn berths on two relay teams.
The 4x100 crew of Amy Buckner, Shanna Coleman, Krystal McRae and Echols finished second in Flagstaff in 53.33. The team's previous best was 54.01.
On the GCR bronze medal 4x400 team were Crystal Sprinkle, Coleman, Buckner and Echols. The four were timed in 4:37.69 -- about 10 seconds off the crew's best mark this season.
McRae will be one of the busiest Lady Longhorns at state having qualified in three events.
In addition to running a leg on the 4x100 relay team, she earned state berths with GCR runner-up finishes in the 100-meter hurdles (16.92) and the shot-put (32 feet, 2.5 inches).
She narrowly missed earning a state berth in the 300-meter hurdles with her fourth-place effort in Flagstaff.
The 78 points compiled by the Lady Horns in the regional championships earned the team third-place honors behind Flagstaff, 134, and Page, 117.