The Payson Rotary Invitational annually provides a level playing field for younger track and field athletes.
The format places competitors on an equal plane because it allows fledgling tracksters to test their skills against other teens near the same age and maturity. In varsity track, freshmen and sophomores often find themselves going head-to-head against seniors who have the edge that comes with being older. Most often seniors are more physically mature and more experienced than their younger teammates.
Due to those advantages, it's often the seniors who emerge victorious over the younger athletes.
But tomorrow, April 19, in Longhorn stadium, the fledglings will have the opportunity to see how they fare when pitted against opponents the same age and experience.
In most events, freshmen will battle other freshmen and sophomores challenge sophomores.
However, it is the coed relays that are most unique in that coaches are allowed the freedom to form teams of two boys and two girls who can be any combination of freshmen and sophomores. They also can run in any order the coach deems.
In the field will be 13 teams from around the state, including some Class 4A and 5A schools.
The Valley and Flagstaff big schools entered include Phoenix St. Mary's, Phoenix Central,
Scottsdale Coronado, Tolleson, Apache Junction, Sunrise Mountain, Sinagua and Coconino.
Also, Verrado, a Valley area school that opened only a few months ago, is entered.
"They have only freshmen and sophomore classes at the school," Rotary Tournament Director Chuck Yale said.
East region schools slated to participate include Blue Ridge, Round Valley and Show Low.
The tournament field, although it is of commendable size, is down from last year when 17 schools were represented.
"Several (teams) said they could not return because of the increased travel costs and the price of gasoline and diesel," Yale said.
The 2007 invitational, which drew 700 athletes, was held in cold, windy conditions. The adverse weather didn't slow the efforts of the athletes. In all, 13 records -- seven boys and six girls -- were set.
For Payson, Maddie Nossek's freshman long jump of 16 feet, 4 inches was almost 6 inches longer than the previous record.
Prior to the meet, not a single PHS athlete held a Rotary Invitational mark.
"Now, a Payson athlete owns one," Yale said while calculating the final scores.
In addition to Nossek's first-place finish in the long jump, the high-flying freshman won the gold in the high jump.
The competition tips off at 10:30 a.m. with the field events including shot put, discus, pole vault, high jump and long 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 are on tap.
Cactus Shadows set the meet record for the coed relay of 3:57.03 l two years ago.
The Rim Country Rotary and the Payson Rotary Club Foundation sponsor tomorrow's meet.