Armed with two East Region gold medalists and 11 qualifiers, the Longhorns are advancing to the 3A state track and field championships.
The Rim Country crew begins pursuit of state honors today, May 14, in Sun Angel Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University. The meet wraps up tomorrow evening with finals in discus, hurdles, 200-meter dash and 800- and 3200-meter runs and 4x400 relay.
The Horns’ two chief threats for state gold, Dustin Isles and Forrest Wadington, enter the big show on a roll, having won individual region championships last week in Snowflake.
Isles, a senior, won the 300-meter hurdles in 38.64, which is easily the fastest time in the state this season. The mark also broke the East record set last year by Blue Ridge’s Matt Boyd.
Isles’ performance drew praise from coach Jonathan Ball, “he came up big time.”
Wadington captured the 800-meter title in 2:04.49, but ran a PR 2:02.26 April 16 at the Queen Creek Invitational.
He too drew plaudits from the coach, “He has grown so much as a person over the last year — I am very proud of what he accomplished.”
For Wadington to win state, he’ll probably have to turn in a personal record time because the 800-meter field includes Sedona’s Jesus Rivera who has run a 3A best of 1:55.
Others who will battle the Payson star are Tuba City speedsters Billy Orman (1:57.55) and Ryan Yazzie (2:00.05).
Blue Ridge’s Clay Khalyd (2:05.77) could also be in the mix.
Ball is predicting about Wadington, “I think he can be in the top four.”
Isles’ fiercest competition should come from a trio of East Region runners — Snowflake’s Bret Smith and Jacob Rawlings, and Phillip Ullibarri of Round Valley.
Smith has run a 40.36, Ullibarri a 40.37 and Rawlings a 40.54.
Isles will also compete in the 110-meter hurdles, an event he was second in at the East finals.
Isles has a PR of 15.46, but Snowflake’s Rawlings turned in a clocking of 14.84 at the Round Valley Invitational.
Freshman Michael Scott qualified for state by finishing fourth in the 400 meters at the East finals.
He’ll have to improve on his 53.20 to be competitive at state. Show Low’s Cody Bell has run 49.96, the best in the 3A this year. Others the Payson frosh must contend with are Sedona’s Kevin Cox (50.22), Show Low’s Josh Weeks (50.88) and Demitri Hayes (50.96) of Empire.
The good news is that Scott is the only freshman qualifier in the event, meaning he has three more seasons to gain speed, endurance and maturity.
Look for him to be a big time threat in the future.
Multi-talented Blake Brown qualified for state in both the high jump and long jump.
His third-place high jump of 5 feet, 10 inches and fourth-place long jump of 19 feet, 9.25 inches are not, however, top 10 marks in 2010.
The high jump favorite tag is pinned on Ryan Sturm of Safford, who cleared 6 feet, 8 inches at the Wildcat Classic.
Long jump favorites included Sedona senior Kevin Cox (22 feet, 5.25 inches), Anthony Diaz of Parker (22 feet, 5 inches) and Winslow’s Tevin Renfro (21 feet, 6.75 inches).
At state, Payson will also be represented by Keith Williams and Levi Sopeland in the pole vault and the 4x100, 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams.
On 4x100 team are Omar Guerra, Ian Dillon, Cameron Romance and Isles.
The 4x400 foursome is Kyle Raeke, Scott, Isles and Wadington.
Ezra White, Tanner Hodges, Joe Garcia and Wadington are on the 4x800 team.
The 4x400 team is ranked fifth in the state, the 4x800 seventh, but the 4x100 foursome is unranked.