Track And Field Tradition Embedded In Payson Family


A stirring reminder of yesteryear and just how good former Lady Longhorn track and field stars Stephanie Robertson and Nicole Engstrom once were lies within the pages of the Arizona Prep Heptathlon All-Time Records book.

Although both shined in different periods, Engstrom in the early 1990s and Robertson about seven years later, both continue to hold prominent state heptathlon rankings.

In 1999, Robertson -- the older sister of current Lady Horn star Jenna Robertson -- set a state heptathlon record of 4,442 points. It remained in tact until 2005, when Yuma Cibola's JennaBree Tollestrup set a new standard of 4,474 points.

Only last week, Robertson's mark fell to third on the all-time list when Samantha Collins of Mesa Westwood set a mark of 4,704 points.

Robertson is also the heptathlon co-record holder in the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 6 inches. After setting the record in 1997, Jody Smith of St. Johns tied it the following year.

In the javelin, Engstrom continues to hold the state record of 129 feet, 6 inches she set in 1990. It is almost five feet farther than the runner-up mark posted in 2007 by Mesa Desert Ridge's Katie Burnett.

After Engstrom starred at Payson, she went on to captain the University of Arizona track and field team. Her Olympic dreams were eventually squelched by a series of shoulder injuries.

Her former coach Dan Reid remembers that she excelled in most every field event.

"She could throw the shot (put), discus, javelin and in college they had her in the hammer (throw)," he said.

Also in the state heptathlon record books, Engstrom is ranked seventh in the shot put with a throw of 34 feet, 2.75 inches.

In 1997, Robertson threw 34 feet, .25 inches and sits 10th in the record books.

In the 200-meter dash in 1998, Robertson was clocked in 27.26. Today that is the 13th fastest time ever record ed in the state heptathlon.

Robertson also holds the third-fastest 800-meter time of 2:27.70. She set the mark in 1998.

In the javelin she is ranked eighth with a toss of 103 feet, 7 inches. Finally, her first day point total of 2,713 is fifth best in the history of the event.

After graduating from Payson High School, Robertson accepted a track and field scholarship to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Although many fine track and field athletes preceded Engstrom and Robertson at Payson High, it was the E&R dynamic duo who led the glory charge of the 1990s when the Lady Longhorns were dominating meets, rolling up state championships, setting new records and sorting through ducats to elite postseason invitationals.

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