Spend a few minutes with Payson High cross country runners and you’ll leave impressed with their enthusiasm and gusto for their sport
Spend time with coaches Jonathan Ball and Chuck Yale and you’ll depart certain the duo have the experience, passion and coaching moxie to build the teens into a cohesive unit good enough to contend for post-season honors.
Both Ball and Young bring years of experience to the program. The exuberant Ball, in his sixth year of coaching, stepped down from a head coaching position at a 5A Albuquerque, N.M. high school last year to move his family to Payson.
His commitment to both the cross country and track programs turned evident last summer when he established a rock solid off-season program that had athletes conditioning and running five days a week.
That was an accomplishment in itself, in that most teens don’t want to spend their leisurely summer months running miles upon miles.
Yale is a retired teacher and head coach from New York who is an invaluable resource to Ball, the teens and Payson High School.
There are not many tasks, whether it’s coaching, scheduling or counseling, he’s not well prepared to take on.
Couple the two coaches with four returning Lady Longhorn letter-winners and several promising male athletes and Payson High has a team oozing with potential.
Pacing the Lady Longhorn effort this season will be veterans Lucy Schouten, Elizabeth Luna, Jacquelyn Osterblad and Lauren Nossek. In that group, Schouten and Luna are seniors and Oesterblad and Nossek juniors.
Iris Molina, a sophomore who was injured last year, is expected to give the Lady Horns a solid fifth runner.
The Lady Horn fold also contains some promising freshman newcomers including Maddie Flake, Ashley Spear, Katie Schouten and Nisha Edwin.
For the boys team, Ball and Yale have been recurring prospective runners mostly because the cupboard came up bare in 2007 after Carlos Lopez, Carlan Pontious, Issac Cluff and others graduated.
Among those athletes Ball and Yale expect to help rebuild Longhorn fortunes are Forrest Waddington, Jamie Waddington, Amman Sharma, Zeke Brooks, Clancy Snyder and Tanner Hodges.
The team also sports four freshmen — Michael Scott, Payson Bobier, Michael Anderson and Trenton Hodges.
After spending a full summer and more than two weeks of preseason practices with the student-athletes, Ball is keyed up about the group.
“I’m very excited about the prospects of this season,” Ball said. “We have a group of athletes that know how to work hard and want to improve on a daily basis.”
The coaches and the athletes have discussed their aspirations, one of which is to win a regional championship, and “have set realistic goals to make our dreams come true,” said Ball.
This year, the two PHS teams will have only one home meet. It is a Sept. 9 multi-meet at Payson Golf Course.
Yale said only one team has committed to participate but he expects Sedona, Mingus, Blue Ridge and possibly Snowflake to eventually compete in the run that will begin at 4 p.m.
The meet will be preceded at 2 p.m., also at PGC, by a middle school/junior high meet.