It’s a given on the Payson High campus that the Longhorn track and field team is struggling through a reloading phase, relying mostly on young, untested athletes for points.
The success of that youth movement March 19 at the Round Valley Invitational had assistant coach Chuck Yale spewing superlatives.
“Freshman Richard Nielsen high jumped two inches over his height, Keith Williams was second in the pole vault and Levi Sopeland was third,” said Yale. “Both are sophomores.”
Also in the youth movement, freshman Chase Walden was sixth in the high jump and 13th in the 43-member long jump field.
The efforts of the youngsters lifted Payson to a ninth-place finish among the 17 teams from Arizona and New Mexico that entered the invitational.
The pole vault saw Williams soar over the bar at 12 feet to finish just six inches behind event champ Michael Bishop of Snowflake. Sopeland was third at 11 feet, 6 inches.
Former Longhorn vaulting sensation Bo Althoff, who holds the distinction of being the finest vaulter in PHS track and field history, coaches both teens.
In the high jump at RV, both Walden and Nielson cleared 5 feet, 8 inches, but Walden was awarded sixth and Nielson eighth on fewer misses.
Logan Morris, another freshman, also represented Payson in the event, taking 11th with a leap of 5 feet, 4 inches.
Winslow senior Tevin Renfro soared over 6 feet to take first.
In the long jump, which drew 45 entrants, Walden was 13th (16 feet, 11 inches) and Neilson took 25th (15 feet, 9 inches).
Sean Ford, a junior, threw 40 feet 8 inches to finish sixth in the shot put.
Also for Payson in the event, J.B. Thornhill finished 12th (36 feet, 3-1/2 inches) and Sopeland was 31st (32 feet, 4-1/2 inches).
In the 400-meter dash, sophomore Cameron Romance won his heat in 57.76, but was 12th overall. Freshman Matt Schruer was 18th (5:37.11) in the 1600 meters and second in his heat.
The Longhorns, who have not yet been in home action, debut in Payson April 7 at the Chuck Hardt Coed Invitational. But before that, the team appears March 26 and 27 in the Chandler Rotary Invitational and March 31 at the Show Low Invitational.