Former Longhorn three-sport standout Carlos Lopez has taken his skills to the next level.
After graduating from Payson High School last spring, Lopez enrolled at Scottsdale Community College where he is a member of both the cross country and the track and field teams.
In cross country, Lopez immediately stepped to the front of the Fighting Artichoke pack by helping the team finish seventh last fall at the NJCAA Region I championships.
For Scottsdale, Lopez was the team's number-one finisher running to a 23rd place in 27:48. His nearest teammate, Nate McCullough was 39th in 31:27.
Earlier in the season at the Mesa Invitational, Lopez helped Scottsdale earn fourth place honors with his SCC-best fourth place showing in 16:05. The time was also a personal record for the former Horn.
In track and field at the Glendale Invitational on Jan. 28, Lopez set a 1500-meter school record of 4:19.08.
Although Lopez has been successful at SCC, participating in collegiate track and field has been a big adjustment mostly because many of the meets are indoors.
"I'd never run indoors before and it is really different," he said.
"Some tracks are only 200 meters and that makes the corners so sharp and steep."
Nonetheless, Lopez is doing quite well indoors finishing sixth in the 800 meters (2:04.95) at the Paradise Valley Invitational and 12th at the season opening Pima Indoor Invitational.
Most recently he traveled to Eastern Illinois University where he turned in an impressive 4:35 clocking in a full-mile race on an indoor track.
In addition to shining as a freshman member of the cross country and track teams, Lopez has also managed to maintain a good grade average while holding down two part time jobs.
"It gets kind of rough sometimes, I don't have much free time," he said. "But, it will all be worth it."
Last spring, Lopez was the recipient of the $1,500 Jack Morris Memorial Scholarship award.
At Scottsdale, he has yet to decide on an academic major.
"I'm still thinking about it," he said. "Right now, I'm trying to take the (graduation) requirements."
In Scottsdale, Lopez shares an apartment with three friends from his days at Payson High School.
As a Horn
Upon Lopez's graduation with the PHS class of 2007, he said his favorite moment in his sports career was as a member of the Longhorn track and field team that won the 2006 state championship.
One of the events he recalls most vividly is the 4x800 3A state championship finals.
In the event, Lopez teamed with Bryson Addington, David Cluff and Carlan Pontious to turn in one the most thrilling races of the meet, finishing second to Tuba City.
In the hotly contested race, TC's Rick Worker dove over the finish line to nip Payson's anchor by .05 of a second.
Earlier in the year, the PHS foursome earned a berth into the prestigious Chandler Invitational meet besting the qualifying standard by nine seconds.
But helping the track team win a state title and set records wasn't Lopez's only contribution to extracurricular activities. He also was a four-year member of the basketball program and a standout on the 2005-2006 Longhorn team that finished as state runner-up.
As a senior member of the PHS cross country team in the fall of 2006, Lopez finished a team best 23rd at the 3A state finals.
Earlier in the season, he won the gold medal at the Estrella Foothills Invitational 5K and was first at the Sludge to the Judge homecoming race on Main Street.
Throughout much of his career, he teamed with Pontious and Cluff to give the Longhorn cross country and track teams one of the finest long distance trios in the state.
Lopez was also a frequent entrant in town-sponsored 5K runs and was usually among the top three finishers.
Lopez spent most of the past week enjoying spring break in California, but is primed and ready to return to the rigors of training, working and academics.
"I'm looking forward to getting back," he said.