An Arizona Interscholastic Association radical realignment has done away with the current conference-region classifications and replaced them with divisions that will be subdivided into sectionals.
This school year, the realignment applies only to cross country, but next year will apply to all prep sports.
In late September, AIA announced the divisions and sections to which all of Arizona’s teams had been aligned.
Payson High School has been placed in Division III along with 46 other teams, some of which are former Class 4A schools. The others are mostly former 3A schools.
From Division III, Payson was aligned in the 17-team Section II, which also includes some 4A schools, all the former East region schools and most all the Northern Arizona reservation teams that produce some of the state’s finest runners.
The Section II finals will be held Oct. 29 at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff.
With Chinle, Ganado, Tuba City and Window Rock competing, it’s a given the competition will be fierce.
Before the AIA announced sectional alignment, coach Jonathan Ball said he wanted PHS to go to a southern-based section, but that didn’t happen.
In the new format, one-half of the scoring teams from sectional competition will advance to the Division III or “state” meet.
Also, the top 20 individual finishers from each section advance to state.
The state meet will be held Nov. 6 at Cave Creek Golf Course over a 3.1-mile course.
Division III boys run at 10 a.m. and Division III girls at 10:30 a.m.
Overall in the new system, the number of state cross country has been reduced from seven conferences to four divisions of about 45 teams each.
Those subdivisions were subdivided into three sections of 15 to 18 teams each.
Ball predicts the new division-section format will heighten competition for all prep teams.
“We are going to raise our game and develop our program,” he said. “Although 50 percent of the teams will go to state, we don’t want to just go to state — we want to make some noise.”