The heightened competition of the new Division III configuration, which this year replaced the conference alignment of past seasons, has taken its toll on the Longhorn boys track and field team.
Although the squad had on its roster some talented athletes that performed well during the regular season, the best the Horns could do in the Division III championships held May 11 to May 14 at Mesa Community College was to garner a miniscule 4.5 points and finish 31st in a field of 34 teams.
Entering the meet, PHS pole vaulter Keith Williams was expected to battle for a gold medal because he was one of the top-ranked vaulters in the state having cleared 14 feet, 3 inches.
But at MCC, the best Williams could do was vault 13 feet, 9 inches and finish eighth among 19 qualifiers.
Show Low’s Daniel Patterson, who Williams had battled head-to-head all season long, went 14 feet, 6 inches and won the event championship.
Payson’s Blake Brown shined during the season in both the high jump and long jump winning several meet titles.
But in the division meet he had to settle for a tie for seventh place in the high jump and an eighth place showing in the long jump.
He entered the high jump with a PR of 6 feet 2 inches, but came up a little short of that at MCC with a leap of 6 feet.
Liberty’s Shane Nelson won the title clearing 6 feet, 4 inches.
In the long jump, Brown got off a personal record mark of 21 feet, 4 inches and was eighth. His previous best was 21 feet, 1/4 inch.
Higley’s Demitri Jones, who entered the meet with a PR of 20 feet, 10 inches, soared 23 feet, 4.5 inches to take first place.
Brown teamed with Cameron Romance, Ian Dillon and Jake Gonzalez in the 4x100 relay to place eighth among the 18 qualifying teams. Payson’s time of 44.70 was about two seconds off the pace of the winning Higley foursome.
The 4x400 relay team of Ian Dillion, Kyle Raeke, Romance and Williams ran to a 12th place finish in a time of 3:35.11 that was about two seconds slower than the team’s best this season.
Raeke also qualified for the D-III championships in the 300-meter hurdles, but his time in the preliminaries of 42.17 wasn’t fast enough to earn him a berth into the finals.
In the shot put, Justin Moratti turned in a personal best throw of 43 feet, 5.5 inches, which was good enough for 10th in the 24-person qualifying field.
Seton Catholic Kevin McDonald threw 52 feet, 8 inches to win the event gold.
Payson’s Ezra White ran a 2:04.61 in the 800 meters and was 18th in the 21-runner field.
If there was a feel good story in the championships it was the record setting performance of Tuba City’s Billy Orman.
In the 3200 meters, he set a state record time of 8 minutes, 48.63 seconds, breaking the previous mark of 8:50.24.
The long distance star set the mark despite suffering from heat exhaustion that caused him to scratch from the previous day’s 800-meter run.
Orman also won the 1600 meters in a personal best time of 4:076.75.
In February, Orman announced he was about to undertake a huge culture change choosing to leave his northern Arizona reservation hometown to next year attend Harvard. Orman said he chose Harvard because of its strong focus on both athletics and academics. Last fall, he also won the state cross-country championship.