Youthful Longhorn Track And Field Athletes Loaded With Potential

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Kyle Raiecke (kneeling) helps Cameron Romance loosen up after running a few sprints for best time at a Payson High School track warmup, Tuesday, Feb. 23.

While the PHS boys track team isn’t loaded with the seasoned letter winners the Lady Horn roster boasts, there are a number of young athletes brimming with untapped potential.

The only problem is, they might not flourish this season.

“With freshman boys, they tend to be physically immature, but they get better as time goes by,” coach Jonathan Ball said. “If they stick with it, they can become very good.”

With 18 freshmen boys on the roster the coach is determined, “to build our program from the ground up.”

As for the newcomers having an upside, coaches mention Kyle Raecke, Richard Neilson and Ian Dillion.

Among the veteran team members joining the freshmen are Keith Williams, Levi Sopeland, Sean Ford, Forrest Waggoner, Tanner Hodges, Brandon Alexander and Michael Scott. All could seize the season to become standout athletes.

As for the rookies, Raecke will compete in the 300 hurdles, Dillion could be one of the team’s best sprinters and Neilson is a promising freshman high jumper.

Among the returnees, Williams, a sophomore, will be a hit if he can match in track and field what he accomplished the past wrestling season.

For the 2009-2010 PHS state runner-up wrestlers, the sophomore Williams finished second, losing only to a senior in the finals.

Last year in track, he was one of the Horns better pole vaulters, reaching heights of close to 13 feet while teaming with Sopeland to give Payson two potent entries in the event.

At the state meet, he vaulted 12 feet, 3 inches and was seventh.

Ford is expected to round into Payson’s best in the throws, including both the shot put and discus.

Forrest Waggoner, Tanner Hodges and Joey Garcia will give the Horns a threesome of strong long-distance runners in the 1600 and 3200 meters.

Waggoner and Hodges were members of last fall’s cross country team and Garcia played soccer.

One of the most intriguing scenarios on the team might be the accomplishments of Alexander, a senior speedster.

He’s expected to participate in the 100, 200 and 400 meters and has been a top-notch sprinter since he ran for the Rim Country Middle School team almost four years ago.

In 2009, Alexander and Raecke formed one-half of a 4x400 relay team that enjoyed varying degrees of success including a third-place finish at the Lupe Acevado Relays in Lakeside.

Last fall, Alexander was expected to have a banner football season as a running back, but was injured and eventually didn’t enjoy the success for which he hoped.

He obviously was highly disappointed.

“I think that has helped him want to do really well in track, especially because it’s his last year,” said Ball. “He wants to go out strong.”

The Longhorns quest for honors begins today, March 2, at the Northland Prep Academy Sky Dome Classic at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

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