As a first time invitee to the Great Southwest Classic, Payson’s Dustin Isles will be in for an extraordinary treat few track and field athletes will ever experience.
The prestigious meet, which has its roots in 1930 as a postseason invitational for the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, has grown to now draw premier athletes from a nine-state area.
For the past 30 years, the quality of the competition has resulted in national rankings, recognition and scholarships for athletes.
Former Payson High School track and field coach Dan Reid calls the Classic a premier meet, one of the country’s finest.
Many Southwest Classic alums have also gone on to participate in the Olympics, Olympic Trials and NCAA championships.
Isles will compete June 5 in the 35th edition of the Classic to be held on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Among the Payson High School athletes who have participated in the past are Darren Reid, Todd Reid, Nicole Engstrom, Mark Hochstetler, T.J. Clifford, Stephanie Robertson, Rheanna Martinez, Bo Althoff and Jon Gunzel.
Darren Reid and Engstrom were once named the meet’s outstanding athletes and Althoff won the pole vault clearing 16 feet, 5 1/2 inches — a mark less than an inch shy of the meet record.
At the time, he was vaulting for the record, but meet officials miss measured and the bar was found to be 1/2 inch shy of a new mark.
Because the Classic is by invitation only and draws from such a large geographical area, Isles will find the competition in his event, the 300-meter hurdles, fierce.
He enters the meet as the Arizona State 3A and Meet of Champions gold medalist with a PR of 38.64.
In 2009 at the Great Southwest, Imani Spivey of Cypress, Texas won the 300-meter hurdles in 36.89.
Robert Griffin of Copperas, Texas, set the meet record of 35.47 in 2007.
Classic officials have not yet issued the list of invitees Isles will face, but possibilities include Ty Cordova of Tucson Sabino, Marcos Gonzales of Mesa, Julian Hernandez of Las Cruces, N.M., Charles Rappe of Los Alamos, N.M. and Texas hurdler Kenneth Minkah.
Cordova has run 38.68, Gonzales has a 38.66 PR. Hernandez has been clocked in 42.46 and Rappe sports a 42.84 mark. Minkah is a state champion with a 37.00 PR.
The prep record in the 300 hurdles is 35.02 set in 2009 by Reggie Wyatt of LaSierra High School in Riverside, Calif.
The record Wyatt broke, 35.32, stood for over 22 years.
Isles burst onto the state track and field scene in April at the Queen Creek Invitational where he finished second in 39:13.
From that meet on, Isles continued to improve, winning the East Region and state championships and setting a new meet record at the Winslow Invitational of 38.99.
His efforts drew praise from his coach Jonathan Ball, who called him “terrific” and said, “he stepped up in a big way.”
His winning time at state was 1.47 seconds faster than that turned in by runner-up Torrin Higgins of Safford.
In fact, the only clocking at a state meet better than the one recorded by Isles was the 37.42 turned in during the 5A I championships by Brophy’s Harry Danilevics.
During the regular season, Isles also proved to be an accomplished 110-meter hurdler finishing third at state in 15.50.
His efforts in both events eventually earned him Second Team All-American honors from Milesplit.com.
With his prep career about to end, Isles is set to take his considerable talents to the next level — possibly at Paradise Valley College, a school he visited during midweek.