For the first time in the history of the Payson High cross country program, runners ventured south to Sierra Vista where they competed against Tucson-area teams entered in the Sue Fletcher Invitational.
Although the surroundings were unfamiliar and the foes different than the ones the Horns traditionally face, the boys team was able to run with the south's best, finishing third in the 10-team field.
The Horns posted 82 points to trail only runner-up Buena (65) and meet champ Tucson Salpointe (82). Tucson High finished fourth (140) and Bisbee (146) was fifth.
In the battle for individual honors, David Cluff turned in one of the finest performances of his career running to fifth place in 16:47.
The first-place runner, Salpointe's Bryce Livingston, was clocked in 16:01.
In addition to Cluff, Payson produced two other top-10 finishers in the 71-runner field -- Carlan Pontious and Carlos Lopez. Pontious, sixth overall, was timed in 16:55 and the eighth-place finishing Lopez came in at 17:12.
Pontious' second place PHS team finish was a bit unusual for him -- he's been the Horns' No. 1 most of the past two seasons.
Also for the Longhorns, Lee Perez was 26th (18:17), Tommy Ashby 42nd (18:47), Bryson Addington 52nd (19:24) and Jonny Malloy 53rd (19:29).
The top 30 runners were awarded medals.
In the 78-runner junior varsity field, Daniel McGee paced the Longhorns with a 13th-place showing in 19:26. The junior varsity meet champion, Edgar Sotomayor of Nogales, posted an ET of 17:53.
No junior varsity team scores were kept.
Other Longhorn jayvees participating included Max Siverson (18th, 19:41), Trevor Day (31st, 20:21), Levi Neal (32nd, 20:24), Ollie Lewinson (41st, 21:17), Hunter Hardt (54th, 22:47), Jeff Day (65th, 24:14), Brian Schwind (68th, 24:45) and Matt Jones (70th, 24:56).
The Lady Horns
Because the Lady Longhorns did not field the mandatory five runners, PHS did not receive a team score.
Representing Payson in the 61-runner field were Lana Cluff (12th, 21:48), Alesha Huddlestun (15th, 22:04) and Sarah Agnes (45th, 24:52).
Kelsey Sheppard of Salpointe turned in a 19:48 to claim meet honors.
Both the boys and girls cross country teams will now return to the more familiar competitive arenas of Northern Arizona. The team travels Sept. 17 to Flagstaff Buffalo Park to compete in the Four Corners Invitational.
In it, the Horn runners are expected to clash with their stiffest competition of the season. The meet annually attracts some of the finest long-distance runners in the state.