Team Gears Up For Anticipated Rotary Invitational

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A field of more than 20 teams, featuring 500-plus young athletes and 1,300 entries, are scheduled to participate in the Rotary Club of Payson Freshman and Sophomore Track and Field Invitational.

But, by the time the event tips off Saturday, even more teams and athletes could be entered.

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Lady Longhorn Jenna Robertson practices her form for the long jump. Saturday's Rotary Invitational will include 20 teams and more than 500 athletes participating in all events.

"We are awaiting word from schools to confirm (their participation)," said Longhorn assistant track coach and meet director Chuck Yale.

During the showdown, Payson fans will expect to see firsthand some of the Longhorns' finest first- and second-year athletes in action.

For the boys team, freshman Brandon

Alexander should be tough for opponents to beat in both the 100 and 200-meter events. Currently, he's ranked among the East region's top six sprinters. That elite crew includes juniors and seniors as well as underclassmen.

In the long distance events, freshman Josh Frewin is a force to be reckoned with, as is region No. 4 ranked pole vaulter, Nick Goodman.

The sophomore sensation, tutored by former PHS pole-vaulting star Bo Althoff, cleared 13 feet, 6 inches this season.

Coach Chuck Hardt also cites Shane Keith (pole vault and hurdles), Matt Wilson (shot put) and Shane Crisp (hurdles) as other underclassmen who could be in the hunt for invitational gold.

Among the Lady Longhorns, sophomore Kayla Morgan should be a threat to win the shot put and possibly the discus. Freshman Maddie Nossek is expected to perform well in the high jump, long jump and, maybe, on the 4x400 coed relay team.

In the long distance events, freshman Lucy Schouten -- who shined last fall in cross country -- is projected to contend for a medal.

Because the Lady Longhorn varsity team is composed mostly of freshmen and sophomores, Hardt and Yale anticipate the team has the talent, if not the experience, to turn in a formidable showing.

Unique format

The Rotary Invitational is much anticipated in high school athletic circles, mostly because the meet allows young athletes to test their skills against other teens near the same age and maturity. In varsity track events, freshmen and sophomores often find themselves going head-to-head against seniors who have the edge that comes with being older. Often juniors and seniors are also more physically mature than their younger counterparts.

Usually, it's the seniors who emerge victorious over the younger athletes. But Saturday, in Longhorn stadium, the fledglings will have the opportunity to see how they fare when pitted against opponents the same age and with the same experience.

In most events, freshmen will battle other freshmen and sophomores challenge sophomores.

Also in the field will be teams from around the state, including several Class 4A and 5A schools.

East region schools slated to participate include Blue Ridge, Round Valley and Show Low.

The competition tips off at 10:30 a.m. with field events, including shot put, discus, pole vault, high jump, long jump and triple jump.

The running events, including a 4x800 coed relay, begin at 11:30 a.m.

The meet record of 9:25:03 was set by Pinnacle High School in 2004.

The 100 and 110 hurdles events will be run at 11:50 a.m.

Immediately after the hurdles, the 1600 meters, 4x100 relay and 400 meters will be run.

Following a 30-minute break, the 300 hurdles, 800 meters, 200 meters, 3200 meters and a 4x400 coed relay will be contested.

In 2005, Cactus Shadows set the meet record for the coed relay with a time of 3:57.03.

Oddly enough, no Payson High School athletes hold Rotary of Payson individual records.

There is no admission charge to the invitational, which should continue most of the day.

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