Chuck Hardt can be excused for doing cartwheels when he learned last summer that Rhea Cosay was transferring from Alchesay to Payson High School.
His glee was spurred mostly by the knowledge that the Lady Longhorns were adding to the team a top-notch runner who was among the best in the region this past season.
The former Falcon runner and all-region first team basketball player has proven all season long she is the gem Hardt hoped she would be.
Although Cosay is just rounding into running shape, she has emerged as the Lady Horn ace. At the Four Corners meet Sept. 9 in Flagstaff, she led the PHS parade finishing 22nd, a team best. At the Sludge to the Judge homecoming run Sept. 22, she was once again Payson's best, taking third place.
Cosay stamped herself a region championship threat Sept. 30 at the Estrella Foothills Invitational by finishing third in 21:14.
With Cosay leading the way, the Lady Horns managed a surprising third place finish overall behind Wickenburg and Fountain Hills.
That represented a huge accomplishment in that the team opened the season with only three runners on the roster and spent most of the early campaign ineligible for a team score because the Lady Horns couldn't field the minimum five athletes required.
Also fueling the Lady Horn showing at Estrella was Lana Cluff and freshman Lucy Schouten. Cluff took tenth in 23:07 and Schouten took 16th with a clocking of 24:37.
Schouten's showing on the varsity scene, where she often competes against seniors four years older than her and much more experienced, was a commendable feat for a fledgling runner.
Only a season ago, she was a member of the Rim Country Middle School Lady Maverick cross country team.
Marquel Waterman (20th; 25:55), Esther Linkey (21st; 26:13) and Rachel Ward (32nd; 32:35) also represented PHS in the competition.
Although PUSD is currently in a two-week fall recess, the Lady Horns will return to action tomorrow, Saturday, at the Sandra Day O'Connor Invitational near Phoenix.