Our thanks to Jon Gunzel at Arizona Photo Solutions for allowing us to print his pictures of the four Payson High School teams that qualified for the Arizona state tournaments.
Those pictures appeared on a special congratulatory page in the Nov. 7 edition of the Payson Roundup.
Jon stepped up to help when it became obvious that time restraints and logistics would have made it difficult to take pictures of all four teams in full uniform.
Longtime Longhorn sports fans will remember Jon as a star football and basketball player at Payson High in the mid-1990s. He also was a record-setting discus thrower for the Longhorn track and field team.
Jon and his wife, Trina, now own and operate Arizona Photo Solutions in Tonto Basin.
In addition to being a professional photographer, Jon has taken up tournament bass fishing and has competed on the FLW circuit.
If Jon has any tales, other than those about his sports accomplishments that he wants to tell his young son, Whyatt, it might be about taking the musical group Los Lonely Boys on a fishing trip two years ago.
The musicians were in Arizona for an appearance at Dodge Theater when they decided to enjoy a fishing respite to Roosevelt Lake.
Jon says the three band members he guided were a hoot.
Jon and Trina, high school sweethearts, were also featured in a special Valentine’s Day edition of last February’s Payson Roundup.
I know Jon well, having coached him at Payson High and having had him as a student at Rim Country Middle School.
So, I’m convinced a love of his is football, a sport in which he was an Arizona Coaches Association All-Star.
Football, football, football was once his purpose in life.
But a few months ago on the multi-purpose field at Rumsey Park, I spotted him and his son playing with a funny shaped ball.
It was round, smaller than a basketball and like the one used in that sport those crazy European and South American fans go nuts over.
Jon, what gives? Where’s the son’s pigskin?
The Payson Elks Lodge will host its annual Hoop Shoot free throw program Dec. 6 in the Tonto Apache gymnasium. There is no fee and the contest is open to all boys and girls ages 8 to 13.
If the upcoming Hoop Shoot contest features some of the drama of some past events, it will be a barnburner.
Among the most memorable competitions were those in 2002 and 2005.
In the Elks’ 2002 finals, Jason Sweet and Hunter Hardt, who were then both members of the Rim Country Middle School seventh-grade basketball team, locked horns in a best-of-25 free throw competition.
Both youngsters were successful on 19 of their 25 shots. Their 76 percent shooting averages sent tongues wagging in Tonto Apache gym, mostly because the mark was better than many high school, college and professional players can put up.
As good as their accuracy was, things got even better after that.
Due to the tie, Elks officials opted for a sudden-death tiebreaker in which each boy received five free-throw attempts. In the extra period, Hardt sunk all five and Sweet was successful on four.
By the time the excitement had settled down, the two had turned in one of the finest shooting performances in the history of the local Elks program.
Hardt went on to play two seasons ago, as a senior, on the Longhorn state runner-up basketball team. Sweet turned his interest to baseball and as a senior in 2007, was one of the Longhorns’ best players.
Another Hoop Shoot nail-biter unfolded three years later in the 10- and 11-year-old boys division. After the first round of 25 shots, Jeffrey Kelley and Jimmy Zimmer were dead-knotted, causing Elk officials to call this time for a 10-shot overtime.
In OT, Kelley claimed the championship by narrowest of possible margins — a single successful shot.
In the entire contest, Kelley sank 16 of his 35 attempts and Zimmer made good on 15 of 35.
Physical education teachers at all the elementary schools have more information about the shoot. Also call Jack Cook at (928) 978-2248 for more information.