Uncertainty is the only certainty facing the Payson High School cross country teams when they travel today, Oct. 30, to Whiteriver for the 3A East regional championships.
The program’s ambiguousness is because no one, including coaches Jonathan Ball and Chuck Yale, are reasonably sure just how the teams will finish at the meet.
Ball says the girls are good enough to win the East title, but without a strong effort, they could come up short.
The boys, he added, could finish as high as second, but possibly fall to fifth. If the team stumbles to fifth, it would not qualify for the state meet to be held Nov. 7 in the Valley. Only the top four teams from each of the four regions qualify for state.
However, individual runners could qualify by finishing in the top 15 at the East championships.
“We hope it does not come down to that,” Ball said. “It has been three years since the boys have qualified as a team and this team has a chance to qualify.”
If the girls have an obstacle to overcome during today’s championships it is dealing with the possible loss of Elizabeth Luna who is out with a hip injury.
“She most likely will be held out,” Ball said. “Katie Schouten, a freshman, has earned the right to take Elizabeth’s place if she is not healthy enough to run.”
The regional finals will be held on the Whiteriver Fairgrounds course where the Payson team competed Oct. 9 during the Alchesay Invitational.
The runners tuned up for today’s regional showdown on Oct. 23 at the Holbrook Invitational that drew some of the top 3A teams from around the state including the reservation schools where long distance running is a way of life.
In the 18-team field, the Lady Longhorns were seventh with 241 points. The boys finished 16th of the 20 teams posting 445 points.
Lucy Schouten, the team’s top runner all season long, led the Lady Horn charge finishing 37th among the 123 runners. She toured the about 5K course in 22.50. Ashley Spear ran to a 41st place showing in 23.01.
Madi Flake took 50th with a time of 23:24.
Also representing the Lady Horns were Jacquelyn Oesterblad (59th; 23:55), Iris Molina (65th; 24:10) and Lauren Nossek (81st; 25:12).
For the boys team, Forrest Wadington took 53rd in 18:37.
With an ET of 20:16, Michael Scott was 95th. Jamie Wadington posted a 20:27 clocking and was 101.
Also running were Tanner Hodges (103rd; 20:38) and Aman Sharma (107th; 20:47).
The field consisted of 130 runners.
In the girls open, or freshman-junior varsity division, Katie Schouten (26th; 25:21), Emily Hill (27th; 25:31) and Nisha Edwin (55th; 30:39) competed in the 72-runner field.
Paul Utz (58th; 21:46) and Clancy Snider (74the; 23:28) were among the 88 runners to enter the boys open race.