The Chandler Rotary Invitational has long been considered the premier track and field meet of the prep regular season, partly because it draws the finest athletes from all school size classifications 1A to 5A.
Which means, Payson athletes who qualify for the meet have the opportunity to go head-to-head against Valley and Tucson big-school athletes they might not normally meet in the course of the campaign.
Among the biggest giant-killing thrills for PHS sports fans occurred in 2002 when Lady Horn Whitney Hardt upset 5A cross-country champ Sally Myerhoff in the 1600- and 3200-meter runs.
The tongues of track buffs from around the state continue to wag about the day a diminutive unknown from small-town Arizona dazzled the Duke University-bound Myerhoff.
Among other amazing performances was one turned in during the 1992 season when the Lady Horns were coached by Donna Reid.
For the Chandler meet, PHS qualified only two athletes -- Nicole Engstrom and Lura Goldman.
But, the two ran, jumped and threw to the meet championship racking up 42 points. Mesa Red Mountain, a 5A school, was second with 41 points.
Engstrom and Goldman's performance continues to be one of the most remarkable efforts in the 68-year history of the Chandler Invitational -- two girls from a small, rural high school out-scored entire teams from Tucson, Phoenix and around the state.
Over the years, other PHS athletes -- including Stephanie Robertson, Reanna Martinez, Jon Gunzel, Julie Gunzel, Jeremy Hoff, Darren Reid and Tim Ryden -- have proven at Chandler that they had the talent to battle on even terms with the ballyhooed best of the big schools.
With the 68th Rotary Invitational set for today, Friday, and tomorrow at Chandler High School, a bevy of PHS qualifiers will have the opportunity -- just as their predecessors did -- to prove they are every bit as good as those in the 4A and 5A ranks. Early this week, first-year track coach Ian Harvey and his staff huddled to select which team members would travel to Chandler for the Invitational.
Among those they selected was defending 3A state long jump champion Maddie Nossek.
She advances to Chandler with a personal best leap of 16 feet, 8 inches, but the long jump won't be the only event in which she'll be entered.
She's also the Lady Horns' leading high jumper (5 feet) and holds the team's best marks in the 200 (27.67) and 400 meters (1:04.50).
The sizzling sophomore is also sometimes a member of the 4x800 relay team.
Others the coaches selected to travel to Chandler include Lana Cluff (800 and 1600 meters), Lucy Schouten (3200 meters), Talia Schaal (100 high hurdles and triple jump), Jenna Robertson (300 low hurdles), Jordynn Runzo (pole vault), Kayla Morgan (shot put and discus) and all three relay teams.
"Throws" tops on Horn agenda
Shot-putters Matt Wilson (45 feet, 11 inches), Bryan Burke (45 feet, 10 inches) and Scott Andrus (45 feet, 3 inches) will lead the boys team to Chandler.
Andrus and Burke will also compete in the discus. Andrus has this season a team-best throw of 130 feet, 3 inches.
Others on the traveling squad are Chase Sevey (triple jump), Troy Brown (long jump and high jump), Daniel McGee (pole vault) and the 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams.
Field events at Chandler begin today at 1 p.m. Running events tip off one hour later.
Action in preliminaries continues until 8:15 p.m. before resuming tomorrow, Saturday, at 10 a.m.
The meet culminates at 8:30 p.m. with three heats of the 1600-meter relay.