Cross Country Teams Improve As Season Progresses

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Running in the rain tested competitors in the recent Payson Cross Country Invitational at Payson Golf Course.

Payson High School coaches Johnathan Ball and Chuck Yale are singing the praises of their young runners on both the boys and girls teams.

About the Lady Horns, Ball — the head coach — says, “Our girls are learning to run together as a team ... they pack together for two miles and then race to the finish.”

Yale says of the Longhorns, “Our boys are starting to come alive as we had three runners in the top 21 (at the Fountain Hills Invitational on Sept. 12) and took fifth overall.”

Both coaches also agree that it’s extremely rewarding to see both the boys and girls begin to reap the benefits of their hard work by turning in medal-winning performances.

At the Fountain Hills meet, which was held in searing 103-degree desert temperatures, the Lady Horns dominated, taking five of the top 10 places and the invitational title.

Individual medal winners were Jacquelyn Oesterblad (fifth), Elizabeth Luna (sixth), Iris Molina (eighth), Lucy Schouten (ninth), Maddie Flake (10th) and Ashley Spear (14th).

A trio of boys won medals by running better times in the heat than they turned in three days earlier in the much cooler Payson Invitational.

They were Tanner Hodges, Aman Sharma and Michael Scott.

Yale called their times, “impressive considering the conditions were set up for a slow race.” For the Lady Horns, freshmen Flake and Spear have caught the eye of the coaches.

“They are a pleasant surprise and stepped up nicely. They both received their first varsity medals (at Fountain Hills) and are gaining confidence with every race,” Ball said.

The coach also praised Iris Molina for her efforts early in the race, “she started out very strong forcing the rest of our girls to pick up the pace early on.”

Yale called the girls’ win at FH the “equivalent of winning a tournament in basketball or volleyball.”

At FH, Lauren Nossek was held out with a hip injury, but she is expected to return by Sept. 23 for the Snowflake Invitational.

The Lady Horns travel tomorrow to the Four Corners Invitational at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff. Currently 30 teams are entered.

Ball is predicting, “A top 10 finish for the girls will be an accomplishment with the field being so tough.”

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