Considerable debate has raged since the onset of the school year about the advantages and disadvantages of Payson High School returning to the 3A conference after two years (2003-2005) in the 4A conference.
Payson was the smallest school in the 4A ranks, with 964 students -- just 15 more than the 3A cutoff.
Some coaches and athletes enjoyed life in the big school ranks and argue PHS officials should not have petitioned to return to 3A.
Others contend PHS is right at home in the 3A conference with longtime opponents like Blue Ridge, Show Low, Snowflake and Round Valley.
Although the debate continues, there seems to be one sport where there's not much doubt that the school's return to 3A was the right move to make.
The track and field teams should find life in the small school conference much more comfortable.
That's because competition will be much less fierce than it was when PHS was a 4A school.
Since the 3A contains only 33 schools and 23,443 students -- compared to the 4A's 62 schools and 92,733 students -- there's now much more opportunity for individual and team success.
Also in 3A, the conference format allows four individual qualifiers from four regional meets to advance to the state championships.
In 4A last year, only three individual qualifiers from eight regional meets were eligible for state.
Of course, this year the 4A has been realigned to Division I and II according to school size, but the competition -- even in the slimmed down 4A -- would continue to be fierce in track.
Payson duo in top 10
The fishing team of Angel and Larry Lunt of Payson took seventh place at the 2005 AllStar Bass SuperCouples Championship held Feb. 18 at Lake Pleasant. The pair pocketed $254 for weighing in 8.03 pounds.
Nancy and Andy Shelton of Tonto Basin were tenth with 7.74 pounds.
MSA banquet set
Since the founding of the MSA, 14 years ago, the association has earned about $700,000 at its annual spring banquets.
Following each banquet, the profits are tallied and the MSA governing board gathers to consider requests for donations.
In past years, sports teams, school bands, drama clubs, speech and debate organizations, school choirs and other youth associations have benefited from MSA's generosity. MSA also annually sponsors high school athletic tournaments and makes donations to conservation and wildlife causes in the Rim Country.
In addition to the donations, MSA members often join forces with game and fish officers, PHS athletes, Forest Service officials and others to participate in clean-ups, build wildlife guzzlers and rebuild fences.
According to MSA member Jack Koon, the association is unique in that all the money it earns helps local causes.
"(The money) all stays here in the Rim Country," he said.
That's because the original mission statement specifically stated that all money earned must benefit local youth programs and conservation.
Koon said the spring banquet is set for May 6 at Mazatzal Casino.
"It's going to be a great one with lots of prizes, raffles and auction items," he said. "We already have 97 firearms and nine bows."
Loads of other donated merchandise, most of which has an outdoor theme, will be auctioned, raffled or given away as door prizes.
The banquet begins at 5 p.m. with a no-host cocktail hour. At 6 p.m., a filet mignon or chicken dinner will be served.
The raffles and give-aways begin about 7 p.m. MSA member Will E. Dietz will serve as master of ceremonies. The auctions are overseen by Dave Yoke.
This year, a 2006 Polaris 500 cc ATV will be among the items raffled off.
Banquet tickets are $75 and available from any MSA member. Koon advises buying your tickets early. The banquet usually sells out.
For tickets or more information, call Koon at (928) 474-1662.