PHS cross country coach Jonathan Ball had his fondest wish come true at the 3A East regional championships held Oct. 30 at the Whiteriver Fairgrounds.
His hope was for both the boys and girls squads to earn team berths into the state championships to be held Nov. 7 at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix.
Both accomplished that goal — the girls advance by winning the East region championship and the boys go to state as the East bronze medalists.
The Lady Horns claimed the region championship by posting a meet-low 39 points to slip past second-place Show Low (45) and Blue Ridge (56).
Alchesay finished fourth with 100 points and is the East’s fourth and final qualifier.
Snowflake was fifth, and did not qualify as a team.
Ball called the Lady Horns’ win “icing on the cake” after the players turned in an excellent regular-season performance in which the team won two invitationals and finished second and third in another two.
“Our girls have been by far the top team in the region all year long,” Ball said.
The Longhorn boys’ 85 points was good enough for third behind East champion Blue Ridge (20) and runner-up Show Low (53).
Snowflake (92) goes to state as the East’s fourth-place finisher. Alchesay (119) will not advance.
Individually, the Lady Horns thrived on “pack running” that Ball has stressed since he was hired a year ago, and as team founder Chuck Hardt did for most of his tenure.
Running as a pack is a critical technique for cross country teams. Because titles and final team finishes are awarded on the places of a team’s top five finishers, squads that run as a pack are more likely to finish higher in the final standings.
The Lady Horns did just that, finishing fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth and 13th in the 32-runner field.
Jacquelyn Oesterblad led the Lady Horns hit parade, taking fourth in 24:04. Teammate Lucy Schouten was only .12 of a second off the pace in fifth place.
Freshmen Ashley Spear and Madi Flake stepped up to take eighth and ninth in 24:31 and 24:41. Iris Molina was 13th in 25:58. Also representing PHS were Lauren Nossek (19th; 26:12) and Katie Schouten (20th; 26:13).
Elizabeth Luna did not participate due to a hip injury.
For the boys, Forrest Wadington (tenth; 20:19), Tanner Hodges (14th; 20:46) and Michael Scott (15th; 20:46) all earned East medals.
The top five scorers were rounded out by Jamie Wadington (22nd; 21:31), and Arman Sharma (24th; 21:40).
Also for Payson in the 35-runner field were Paul Utz (28th; 23:16) and Zeke Brooks (33rd; 24:19).
At the state meet, the 3A boys will run at 1:55 p.m. and the girls at 3:10 p.m. The course distance is a 5K or 3.1 miles.