Coach Chuck Hardt's goal is to get the Payson High School cross country teams ready for championship play. For a couple of the team's top runners, that won't be difficult.
At the Thunderbird Invitational held in Phoenix on Saturday where no team scores were kept, the varsity boys team was led by Carlan Pontious, who placed 17th out of 130 runners with a time of 17 minutes and 25 seconds.
Other runners for the boys varsity were Carlos Lopez (21st, 17:28); Bryson Addington (90th, 19:12); Isaac Cluff (92nd, 21:49); and Jesus Hipolito (121st, 24:51).
Pontious and Lopez were medal winners in the Thunderbird invitational.
Lana Cluff, the lone varsity girl participant, won a ribbon for placing 29th out of 90 runners with a time of 19:50.
Three junior varsity boys competed in the invitational with 156 runners, including Max Siverson (46th, 16:52); David Knauer (120th, 19:01); and Noah Sweet (143rd, 20:14). Siverson won a ribbon for his effort.
On the girls junior varsity side, three participants competed in a field of 118 runners with Lucy Schouten winning a medal for a time of 19:49, good enough for 24th place.
Other jayvee girl runners were Esther Linkey, (58th, 21:42); and Rachel Ward (111th, 26:09).
In the Show Low Invitational held on Wednesday, Hardt said the runners were off their game after the two-week fall break.
The boys varsity team finished in third place with 56 points behind Blue Ridge and Alchesay, which tied for first with 46 points.
With 35 runners competing, Pontious led the Payson varsity boys team with a third-place finish in a time of 17:25.
Also representing the Longhorns varsity boys team were Lopez (fourth, 17:28); Addington (10th, 19:12); Siverson (17th, 19:57); Cluff (25th, 21:49); and Joe Schlosser (34th, 24:51).
The only varsity girl who competed in Show Low was Cluff (10th, 23:29).
Four members of the junior varsity boys team also competed. Those competing were (Elden Siverson (third, 21:27); Sweet (ninth, 23:22); Knauer; (10th, 23:41); and Matt Jones (15th, 29:14. Hipolito did not finish. The only junior varsity girl who competed was Schouten (first, 24:32). Hardt said he thinks the team will be at full-strength soon.
"We are hoping the kids bounce back in the next couple of weeks," he said. "If they keep after it, we will get both (teams) to state. I want them feeling healthy going into championship week."