Veteran coach Chuck Hardt can only be wondering "what if" after watching his Lady Longhorn cross country team post a no-score in a Sept. 7 season opening four-way meet.
"If at least two more girls had turned out for the team when preseason practices began in August, we could have fielded the mandatory runners and would have been in contention for meet honors," Hardt said.
But an extensive recruiting effort didn't produce any additional athletes and the Lady Horns were forced to compete with the three who had been with the team since the onset.
Those three -- Lana Cluff, Alicia Huddlestun and Sarah Agnes -- did a commendable job finishing fourth, sixth and 12th respectively in the 32-runner field.
Cluff was clocked in 23:53, Huddlestun posted an ET of 24:08 and Agnes finished at 25:54 over the about 3.1 mile route on Payson Golf Course.
The winner, Rochelle Kanuho of Coconino, was timed in a very fast 20:42.
Her gold medal showing led the Panthers to a first-place finish with 37 points. Fellow Flagstaff school, Sinagua, took second at just one point off the winning pace. With 51 points, Mingus was third.
Fourth place was not awarded because Payson didn't field the minimum number of runners.
The three Lady Longhorns will join their male cross country counterparts Sept. 17 at the Four Corners Invitational in Flagstaff.
Hardt said finding more runners to fill out the Lady Horn roster is extremely unlikely.
Which means, Cluff, Huddlestun and Agnes will compete as individuals only this year and official team results will not include a Payson squad.