Beginning tomorrow, it will be old home week for Payson High School cross-country coach Jonathan Ball.
The reunion will center on his return to the school, Rio Rancho, N.M., where his coaching roots lie.
“I was an assistant coach there from 2003 to 2006,” he said. “I left for a head coaching job at Volcano Vista and then came to Payson.
“You could say my coaching foundation lies there (at Rio Rancho).”
The course the runners will compete on is the site of the New Mexico state championships and is a span that Ball helped design when coaching in the state.
Ball and his Longhorn long distance runners left at 6 a.m. this morning, Oct. 16, for Albuquerque where the team is entered in the Rio Rancho Invitational.
“I’m excited to be going back, it should be fun,” Ball said.
The coach expects about 60 teams to compete in the meet that has been divided into two divisions — green and blue.
The blue, which Payson is entered in, is for Class 1A to 3A teams. The 4A and 5A “big school” teams will compete in the green division.
Rio Rancho, which is the largest school in New Mexico, is entered in the green division.
Ball expects the Lady Longhorns to show well in the invitational despite the fact some runners have been slowed by illness.
“I think we’re getting over that,” he said.
While the purpose of the trip is to compete against New Mexico’s finest runners, there will be time for a little adventure.
The trip includes a ride the Sandia Peak Tramway located in the Cibola National Forest near Albuquerque.
The tram is the world’s longest and will take the athletes to an elevation of 10,378 feet where sightings of golden eagles, black bear and mule deer are common.
“It will be fun for them,” Ball said.
The last time the cross country teams were in action, Oct. 9 at the Alchesay Invitational, three team members earned medals for top-15 finishes. Jacquelyn Oesterblad was ninth in 24:31. Teammate Lucy Schouten took 10th in 24:49. Freshman Ashley Spear turned in a clocking of 25-flat to medal at 13th.
Also representing Payson were Madi Flake, 22nd, 26:17; Lauren Nossek, 25th, 26:52; Emily Hill, 29th, 27:19; and Elizabeth Luna, 46th, 30:35.
Katie Schouten competed in the open division and finished ninth in 28:41.
Ball said all those runners would compete at Rio Rancho.
The boys cross country team finished ninth at Alchesay with 188 points.
Representing the Longhorns were Forrest Wadington, 23rd, 20:10; Michael Scott, 26th, 20:39; Tanner Hodges, 43rd, 22:09; Jamie Wadington, 44th, 22:23; and Zeke Brooks, 52nd, 24:10.
The five are entered in the New Mexico competition.
Following the team’s return from New Mexico, the runners will travel Oct. 23 to Holbrook for the Roadrunner Invitational.