The 2006 Rim Country sports year was highlighted by the hiring of four new Payson High School varsity coaches, the rousing accomplishments of a band of spirited Little League baseball players and the head-turning exploits of two of the Longhorns finest senior athletes.
The new coaches included Austin White, Dave LaMotte, Josh Anderson and Grant Coley. White replaced Roger Wholly as the boys soccer coach. LaMotte took over the wrestling reins from Rich Ormand. Anderson replaced Jerry Rhoades as the head of PHS football program and Coley became the Lady Longhorn basketball coach after Rory Huff resigned.
In July, sports interest in the Rim Country peaked after the Payson Little League all-stars, coached by Craig McMullen, won both Area One and District One championships. On their way to the crowns, the Little Leaguers posted undefeated records, winning most games by lopsided margins.
At the state tournament held in Cottonwood, the Boys of Summer continued their winning ways, but were denied a berth in the final four after when a screwball tie-breaker sent Tucson Sabino to the finals, rather than Payson.
Both teams finished 4-2 in pool play, but Tucson advanced on a "ratio of runs allowed per defensive innings" edge that eliminated Payson's finest-ever Little League team.
Although McMullen and his staff never criticized the method used to break the tie, there were plenty of fans, both from Payson and around the state, who were left scratching their heads in disbelief when the heartbroken Rim Country players were told their dreams of a state crown were over.
Individually, Todd Kreimeyer and Luke Apfel turned in two of the finest all-around performances ever recorded by PHS athletes.
Kreimeyer won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the sprint and relay events at the Arizona State Class 3A Track and Field Championships held May 13 and 14 at Mesa High School.
A week later, he surprised the entire state by winning the 100-meter dash at the prestigious Meet of Champions in Chandler.
Apfel, competing June 16 in Surprise at the Arizona Coaches Association North vs. All-Star football game, earned Most Valuable Player honors rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
In 2005, Apfel set a school single season rushing record of 2,068 yards.
Both Kreimeyer and Apfel graduated from PHS with the class of 2006.
High school students, once the staple of the Payson Parks and Recreation-sponsored adult basketball league, will no longer be allowed to participate.
The decision to ban high school players and those under 18 was handed down by parks and recreation board and department administrators, including then-director Bill Schwind.
Schwind said the decision was made for at least three reasons.
First, basketball has evolved into a contact sport, and adults competing with minors in contact sports leave the individuals and the department open for liability.
"We want to minimize the possibility of that happening," Schwind said.
Second, the town offers the program as an adult recreation league and it is intended for older, more mature players.
Last season, some adult team members sat on the bench and high school players dominated play.
"High school kids have both a structured program and intramurals that they can compete in. Leave the town league for adults," Schwind said.
Third, the Parks and Recreation department wanted to avoid situations similar to what occurred last year when a Valley-area high school varsity athlete played in an adult league game while visiting Payson.
His participation was an infraction of Arizona Interscholastic Association rules and he was ruled ineligible to participate in the state tournament, which was won by his high school.
The coach who led the Longhorns to a share of the 2002 state boys soccer championships was fired.
Roger Wholly said Payson High School principal Roy Sandoval and athletic director Dave Bradley called him to administrative offices after school on Jan. 18 to tell him he was being replaced.
"Roy began with, ‘Roger, we are not happy with where the soccer program is now. We have had many complaints over the past few years to the superintendent and school board members.
"‘So, we are letting you go and will advertise for a new head coach for next year,'" Wholly said. "My response was that ‘you are the boss and if that's what you want to do, that's going to happen.'"
Sandoval confirmed that Wholly would be replaced next season, but because the matter is a district personnel issue, policy dictated he could not comment on the reasons.
At the Resolution Run 10K Jan. 28 near Green Valley Park, Joe Behrens -- competing in the 20- to 29-year age group -- won both the men's and overall run titles, covering the rugged 6.2-mile course in 37:02.
The women's division champion, Cynthia Pool (40 to 49-year age group) was clocked in 44:06.
The Second Annual Outdoor Rendezvous, held Feb. 4 at The Tackle Box near Punkin Center, was an overwhelming success.
An estimated 2,000 patrons -- about twice as many as last spring -- attended the festivities that included seminars, sidewalk sales, raffles, giveaways and a chili cook-off.
The Safford Bulldogs' depth proved too much for the Payson Longhorns to overcome in the battle for the Class 3A state championship. The Dogs bit runner-up Payson, 227.50 to 164.50, in the championship finals.
More than 60 aspiring Little League players turned out Saturday at Rumsey Park for the unofficial start of the spring campaign.
Club Rim, which plays in the 18-years-and-under USA Volleyball Arizona league in Phoenix, turned in its most successful effort since the founding of the team two months before at the Grand Canyon State Games.
On Feb. 20 in Glendale, Club Rim fooled all its doubters by playing its way to the age division championship.
Although Rich Ormand stepped down as Payson High School's wrestling coach, he stayed long enough to tie up loose ends in the program.
In his resignation letter, Ormand wrote, "My last official act as coach will be to accompany our seniors to senior nationals at the National Coaches Convention March 23 through 27 in Pittsburgh." The former coach gave the upcoming birth of his third child as his reason for stepping down.
In the Arizona Open Jiu-Jitsu tournament, held Feb. 25 in Mesa, Ryan Sundra took second place in the adult featherweight (147 pounds) division.
A rush of aspiring Payson Little Leaguers hit the field for the first time April 1 at Rumsey Park during opening day festivities that included several rounds of games, sage advice from volunteer coaches and plenty of cheering from the proud moms and dads who filled the stands to overflowing.
Payson High School senior Brian Schwind was selected by the Arizona Interscholastic Association as one of two finalists for the Class 1A-3A Scholar Athlete of the Year award.
Todd Kreimeyer, who has been slowed by injuries most of his prep athletic career, put on a one-man show during the May 13 and 14 state finals at Mesa High School, winning two gold medals, a silver and a bronze.
Kreimeyer, who has been relegated most of his career to relay teams because of injuries, took first place in both the 100 (11:20) and 200 meters (22:65). He was also anchored the runner-up 4x100 relay team and the third place finishing 4x400 relay foursome. His efforts, coupled with numerous top-eight finishes posted by his teammates, propelled the Longhorns to the Arizona state championship. The Horns ran away with the title, posting 120 points. Blue Ridge finished a distant second with 74 points.
Errors spelled the demise of the Lady Longhorns in a state tournament final four 2-1 loss to the Florence Gophers. Payson's lone run came on a home run by Sarah Cadd, her second of the state tournament.
In the five-race Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (MBAA) racing series, which concluded May 20 with the Prescott Punisher, Payson produced six state champions.
They included Nick Payne, Eric Molitor, Cypress Gorry, Ken Shepherd, Brian Goble and Wayne Gorry. Also from Payson, Trevor Titus Zimmerschied finished third in the series just six points out of first place and Daniel Conley took first in the Junior 13- to 14-year-old class at Prescott.
"No small town in the state had as many champions as did Payson," National Off Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) official Dan Basinski said. "The town might also have had the first father and son state champions -- Wayne and Cypress (Gorry)."
Newly appointed Longhorn football coach Josh Anderson arrived in Payson buoyed by seasons of collegiate coaching experience.
Rory Huff turned the Lady Longhorn coaching reins over to Grant Coley, who last year led the Rim Country Middle School Maverick eighth-grade boys to the White Mountain League Championship.
Prior to Coley coaching at RCMS last season, he coached various levels in girls programs at Sunnyslope, Dysart, Apollo and Arcadia high schools.
Luke Apfel proved he was among the elite running backs in the state June 16 in the Class 1A-3A North vs. South All-Star football classic at Surprise Stadium. On the very first play, Apfel, scored on a 68-yard scamper to give his star team a lead it never relinquished. On the trap play, Apfel charged through the center-guard gap, turned outside, broke a tackle and used his speed to carry him into the end zone.
Apfel's gridiron heroics earned the North team a 21-7 win and earned the Payson High School graduate the game's Most Valuable Player award.
The Payson Futbol Club didn't perform as well as team members had hoped in the annual Independence Day Men's 40 Years and Older Invitational Tournament.
The Rim squad finished fifth in the six-team tournament, but scored a triumph of sorts by tallying a goal against the formidable Incinerators team that won the holiday fray by posting an undefeated record.
With victories in the Area One and District One tournaments played in Eagar-Springerville, the Payson Payson Little League all-star minor division team qualified for the Arizona State tournament in Springerville. The team's appearance at state was the second successive year the squad qualified for the Arizona showdown.
On the way to an 8-0 record, the Payson Little League All-Stars outscored its opponents by a whopping 146-11 margin and won all its games on the 10-run mercy rule.
The Payson Little League all-stars were one tiebreaker away from the final four of the Arizona state tournament. But, instead of moving on, the Rim Little Leaguers had to settle for a 4-2 record and a fifth place tournament finish in the field of 14 of Arizona's finest teams due to a bit of math.
"As it turns out, Sabino's runs/innings ratio was .908 and Payson's was .933, so Sabino advanced," All-Star coach Craig McMullen said. Little League officials say the finish among the three teams was one of the closest in Arizona tournament history.
The pride of the Tonto Apache nation shined bright at the 2006 USATF Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships where two young tribal members threw their way to top-20 finishes in the shot put.
Hunter Doka, competing in the Bantam Boys age/sex division threw the shot 24 feet, 4 inches to finish 15th among the 32 national qualifiers. Amir Patterson of the Valley United Track Club threw 32 feet to win the gold medal.
In the Youth Boys division, Hunter's older brother, Val, was 17th with a heave of 38 feet, 8 inches. Twenty-nine national qualifiers competed in the division won by Cody Snyder with a throw of 52 feet, 3 inches.
In the 12 years Bill Schwind headed the Town of Payson Parks and Recreation Department, he oversaw remarkable growth and change. Green Valley Park was built, and the Parks and Recreation Department moved its office there. Four Field Turf all-weather playing fields were added to Rumsey Park. Payson trails master plan was finalized. The Payson Event Center went up and participation in parks and recreation programs skyrocketed.
With those accomplishments behind him, Schwind moved onto a similar position with the City of Glendale.
The Lady Longhorn volleyball team has wrapped up one of its most successful three-match stints of the past decade by whipping a tough Fountain Hills squad, 3-2. Days earlier, the Lady Horns upset favored Snowflake, 3-0, and also ran past Sedona, 3-1.
Staying true to his promise of not running on the wrong side of Main Street as he had done the past two years, Carlan Pontious captured the championship of the 2006 Sludge to the Judge homecoming run.
In the event held Sept. 23, Pontious trailed early but turned on the afterburners about 400 meters from the finish to overtake Marcus Whitt and James Schow of Marana Mountain View.
Longhorn hopes for a berth in the postseason playoffs died inside the country's only domed high school football stadium.
In the Ensphere in Springerville-Eagar, it was a 28-3 loss to the homestanding Round Valley Elks that eliminated Payson (4-5 overall, 2-3 in the East) from state tournament contention.
The high-flying Lady Longhorns took care of East Region volleyball business with a 3-0 victory over the Show Low Cougars. The win, Oct. 24 in Show Low, marked the culmination of 2006 East play for PHS.
Rhea Cosay's arrival on the Payson High School campus last summer from Alchesay High School was a welcome relief for longtime cross country coach, Chuck Hardt. Not only did Cosay's presence give the Lady Horns another much-needed runner, Hardt knew she was a top caliber athlete.
In the annual town-sponsored Turkey Trot 5K. held Nov. 18 at Green Valley Park, Carlan Pontious claimed the men's championship in 17:31. Cindy Pool won the women's title in 20:47.
A banner campaign in which the Lady Longhorn volleyball team played its way to the East region regular season co-championship ended with even more honors flowing the team's way.
In a voting of region coaches, a trio of Lady Longhorns -- Brooke Cannon, Tori Wilbanks and Jade Heglie -- was named to the All-East first team. Also, Jenna Robertson and Mollee Lee were tapped for honorable mention accolades.
Zak Miller was the only Longhorn football player to be on the receiving end of two team awards at a season-ending ceremony held Nov. 29 on the Tonto Apache Reservation. Miller was named the Horns' Most Valuable Player and the recipient of the Mr. Defense citation.
Justin Carlen, 11, finished third in the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick region championships held Dec. 10 in the Arizona Cardinals stadium. Carlen strung together an effort of 221 feet to win the bronze medal against qualifiers from both Arizona and New Mexico. The competition was held just prior to the kick off of the Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks NFL game.
Payson High School senior Zak Miller and coach Josh Anderson joined the ranks of a long list of former Longhorn players and coaches who were selected to participate in the prestigious Arizona Coaches Association All-Star North vs. South game.