Coaches of the Payson High School boys and girls track teams have decided to use the Round Valley Dome Invitational in Eagar as a testing ground meet.
“We want to use it to figure where kids fit in best to help the team down the road,” said coach Johnathan Ball. “I don’t want to say we won’t be focused on winning, but we want to try some different things.”
Which means some of the athletes might not be aligned in their individual best events, or their favorites, but rather in those where they can score the most team points.
The strategy is one that coaches have long used in an effort to insure they have the strongest overall team possible once the all-important regional and state tournaments roll around in May.
Part of Ball’s and assistant coach Chuck Yale’s scheme for the competition, which has drawn 23 teams from Colorado and New Mexico as well as Arizona, is to use senior Maddie Nossek — the team’s finest all-around athlete — in events where she has not previously competed.
She’ll compete in her first open 800 run and also in her first 100-meter hurdles. She’s participated in those before, but as part of the heptathlon — never as open events.
Last spring, at the 34th Annual Great Southwest Track and Field Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., Nossek was fifth in the 800 meters in 2:31.70. She also ran the 100-meter hurdles in 17:41. Both are commendable ETs for the young performer, but it was Nossek’s effort in the 800 that drew praise from Ball.
“She put everything behind her and ran a great race,” he said.
For tomorrow’s meet, Nossek is also entered in the 200 meters and the long jump — an event in which she will be a gold medal favorite.
Another athlete Ball is expecting big things from in Eagar is 100-meter hurdler Kyle Raecke.
“I’m excited to see him, he should do well,” Ball said.
Raecke has shown speed in the early season, finishing fifth in the 60-meter hurdles March 2 at Northern Arizona University.
Also for Payson, freshman high jumpers Chase Walden and Logan Morris have both cleared 5-feet, 8-inches showing the potential to become outstanding performers.
Both the boys and girls teams are expected to take full contingents of athletes, despite the school being on spring break and some students out of town on family vacations.
“We have a few (athletes) gone, but most will (travel),” Ball said.
The Lady Longhorns 4x400 relay tam could be hobbled by nagging injuries to two of the runners.
Team members during the early season have been Tanya Olson, Kyndel Lann, Kierstin Mock and Katie Welker, but Ball had not settled on those runners who would make up the team in Eagar.
Following the RV Dome Invitational, the track and field teams return to action March 26 and 27 at the Chandler Rotary Invitational.