The Payson High boy’s track team will take to the Division III state finals a top-ranked pole vaulter who is widely considered the gold medal favorite.
The state finals begin today, May 11, and continue tomorrow, Saturday, at Mesa College.
Keith Williams has vaulted 14 feet, 6 inches this season, which is a full three inches better than the second-ranked athlete — Jacob Flores of Seton Catholic.
Williams’ coach, school pole vault record holder Bo Althoff, has predicted his student might go even higher, possibly over 15 feet.
But Williams isn’t the only thoroughbred in the Longhorn corral. Levi Sopeland has valued 13 feet, 6 inches and is currently ranked fifth in the state.
In the high jump, PHS junior Richard Nielson has cleared 6 feet, 2 inches, which ties him for fourth best in the state this year. However, to earn gold in Mesa, Nielsen must find a way to outleap Sedona’s Chris Oestmann, who holds D-III’s best mark of 6 feet, 7 inches.
The 4x400 relay team of Payson Bobier, Kyle Raeke, Trevor Clawson and Williams has run a 10th best ET of 3:31.39 but at state will have to contend with a talented field of relay teams including a Safford foursome that has run 3:27.83.
With only a small contingent of top-10 ranked individuals and teams to take to Mesa, the Longhorns obviously won’t be a contender for the team title.
But with improvement from some of the understudies and solid performances from the veterans, the underdog Horns could make a name for themselves.