Schedules For Spring Sports Are Firming Up

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Spring schedules, which include golf, softball, baseball and track and field, are the most tenuous in high school sports.

They can change with less than a day’s notice as coaches and athletic directors juggle dates, times and playing sites often because of inclement weather and cancellations.

Despite the schedules’ shaky nature, PHS AD Jason Lobik and sports secretary Stephanie Shields are in the process of finalizing what they hope will be reasonably stable playing agendas for Longhorn teams.

The first to tip off the 2010 season will be baseball and softball, both playing scrimmages on Feb. 25 against the visiting Winslow Bulldogs.

The schedule highlight for coach Jerry Daniels’ baseball team is the Mohave Valley tournament to be held March 4 through 6 near Laughlin, Nev.

The tournament is a true test of team pitching strength as the Horns traditionally play up to five games over the course of the three days.

The tournament almost always gives the Longhorns the opportunity to practice and play in warm, sunny weather. Those are not always the conditions in Payson and where in early March it is often chilly, wet and sometimes snowy.

Former Longhorn coach Teddy Pettet often deadpanned, “The weather in Payson is always good — until the start of baseball season.”

The softball schedule highlight is undoubtedly the Gracie Haught Memorial Tournament that this year will be played March 19 and 20.

It draws some of the finest teams from around the state regardless of school size classification and is played in a show of good will and sportsmanship mostly because it is contested in memory of a 3-year-old Gracie who was killed Feb. 6, 2004 in a tragic accident in Star Valley.

At the time, her mother, Bobbie Jo Haught, was the Lady Longhorns’ junior varsity softball coach, and the young girl was a frequent visitor to practices and games.

Since Gracie’s death, Bobbie Jo has returned to the team serving as a scorekeeper, player confidante and part-time coach.

At the conclusion of the 2009 tournament, Brian McMinimy, a 1987 graduate of Benson High — one of teams that traditionally plays in the Gracie Haught — publically lauded the fray saying, “I can tell you firsthand how wonderful this tournament is, how special it is to all involved and how proud the girls from all the schools are about being able to participate and the meaning behind it ... Win or lose, everyone enjoys the tournament and the spirit it is played under.”

The PHS boys and girls track teams, under the guidance of first-year head coach Jonathan Ball, spring into action March 3 at the NAU Skydome Classic in Flagstaff.

New on the schedule this year is the Chuck Hardt Co-ed Invitational April 7 on PHS track. Hardt was a longtime PHS PE teacher and track and field coach who also founded the cross-country program.

He retired two years ago, prompting remaining coaches and officials to rename the invitational in his honor.

Golf, which has been one of the school’s most successful sports since Bret Morse took over the reins of the program more than a decade ago, tees off March 5 in an East match at Snowflake and then travels the state visiting Holbrook, Safford, Show Low, Pinetop and several Valley-area courses. Local fans will have just two opportunities to see the team in home action — March 10 at The Rim Club and March 30 at Chaparral Pines.

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