Carlos Lopez finally had the break-out race he hoped for.
The banner showing occurred Sept. 30 at the Estrella Foothills Invitational cross country meet.
In it, Lopez earned his first gold medal of the season, winning the 5K event in 18:02.
Since the onset of the season, the PHS senior began training diligently, sometimes running distances up to 12 miles.
His dedication drew praise from coach Chuck Hardt who said Lopez was a determined runner doing his best to get better.
But as hard as Lopez was training, he wasn't enjoying the results.
After finishing fifth at the Sludge to the Judge -- a race in which he was the defending champion -- Lopez expressed his frustration.
"I should have done better," he said.
But, that is all behind him now. With his first win of the season buoying him, Lopez says he will begin concentrating on the remainder of the season and the region and state meets.
With PHS in fall recess, Hardt has designed the past week as a recovery time for Lopez and his teammates.
Next week, however, the runners will return to practice, focusing on speed work and grueling uphill runs.
The efforts of Lopez at the Estrella Invitational helped lift Payson to a fourth place finish with 81 points. Fountain Hills (47) was first, Chino Valley (60) second and host Estrella (74) third.
Also representing the Longhorns in the meet were Bryson Addington (15th; 19:38), Max Siverson (17th; 19:53), Isaac Cluff (20th; 20:07), Elden Siverson (30th; 22:14), Noah Sweet (38th; 25:06), Joe Schloesser (32nd; 22:58) and Matt Jones (45th; 30.32).
The Horns return to action Oct. 7 when the team travels to the Sandra Day O'Connor Invitational near Phoenix.