9-Year-Old Scores Big In Mercury Challenge

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For 9-year-old Payton Petersen, seeing herself televised on the Jumbotron screen at U.S. West Arena, the home of the Phoenix Mercury and Suns, was the thrill of a lifetime.

"She's normally very shy, but when she saw it, she had a grin from ear to ear and was waving at everyone," said her father, Jason Petersen.

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Payton Petersen shows off a pair of autographed basketball shoes that were once worn by Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi.

The Star Valley girl appeared on the screen last week after winning a halftime "Kids Shoe Scramble" contest at a Mercury game.

For the contest, Payton was among six children chosen from the audience to participate.

All were asked, by Mercury mascot "Scorch" to remove their shoes and place them in a bag.

Then, Scorch filled the bag with other items and dumped the contents near the center jump circle.

Payton and the other contestants were told to line up on the south baseline. At the sound of a whistle, the contestants were off and running to the pile of shoes in the center of the court.

Their task was to find their own shoes, put them on, and run to the north end of the court. Then they had to pick up a basketball and shoot a basket.

Since Payton was the first one to find the shoes and score a basket, she was declared the contest champion.

For the victory, Payton was awarded a size 13 autographed pair of basketball shoes worn by Mercury star and leading scorer Diana Taurasi.

Payton will be a fourth-grader at Frontier Elementary School next school year.

Going camping in the Tonto?

For those interested in picnicking, camping or hiking in the Tonto National Forest during Independence Day, Forest Service officials have issued these words of advice:

Two closure areas in the Tonto National Forest place some limitations on where people can go. A closure focused on the Mogollon Rim has closed many of the popular high country campgrounds, including Tonto Creek, Christopher Creek, Sharp Creek, Canyon Creek and Valentine Ridge.

Outside those closures, there are still ample opportunities to find a campsite in a cool pine forest. Near Payson, both the Ponderosa and Houston Mesa campgrounds offer developed camping opportunities, while more primitive campsites are found along Houston Mesa Road. Numerous campgrounds can be found along Arizona Highway 288, leading from Roosevelt Lake to the town of Young. North of Young, both the Alderwood and Haigler Canyon campgrounds are open. Fire restrictions remain in effect at all of these locations, so camp stoves or other alternatives to wood and charcoal should be used for cooking and heating.

Those wanting to camp or picnic at one of the Tonto's six lakes or two rivers have even more opportunities. On Roosevelt and Apache lakes there are 1,150 campsites available. The Lower Salt River Recreation Area can host thousands of picnickers, not to mention the tubing, rafting and boating available on Saguaro and Canyon lakes. Bartlett Lake and the Needle Rock Recreation Area near Cave Creek provide more camping and picnicking opportunities. And, unlike the Tonto's higher elevation recreation sites, the developed campground and day use sites on the Tonto's chain of lakes all have some exemptions to the fire restrictions. Campfires and charcoal use is permitted at these sites in designated, developed locations. If a fire ring is provided at your campsite on Roosevelt Lake, then go ahead and roast your marshmallows. If there is a pedestal grill near your picnic table at Needle Rock, then feel free to light your charcoal.

"While we do allow charcoal and fire use in these developed recreation sites, the exemptions are very specific," said Forest Supervisor Gene Blankenbaker.

"People can't bring their own charcoal grill and use it next to one of our provided pedestal grills, only the pedestal grills already on site are exempt from restrictions. Building a campfire anywhere on the Lower Salt River or at Needle Rock is also not permitted, only the use of the provided pedestal grills is OK. I advise people to bring a camp stove with them even if they are going to an exempted site, that way if all of the provided grills are already taken, they can still cook their food without risking a violation notice and fine."

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