The Desert Twilight Classic gave Lady Longhorn cross country runners the opportunity to test their skills against some of the finest competitors in small-town Arizona, many of whom they will run against in the season-ending Division IV state meet.
For the classic, held Sept. 28 at Toga Sticks Golf Course, a field of 27 teams and more than 135 runners turned out to compete in the “Girls Small School” division.
The Lady Longhorns five-member contingent accumulated 452 points and finished 20th overall. Abby Greenleaf paced the Payson effort, finishing first among the PHS runners in 21:01.34.
Running well is nothing new for Greenleaf who opened the 2012 season by taking 16th at the Peaks Cross Country Invitational in Flagstaff. There, she was clocked in 23:35 while running at a very taxing altitude of more than 6,000 feet.
On Sept. 8 at the Fountain Hills Invitational, Greenleaf finished seventh in the 32-runner field in 22.44.
Also at the classic for PHS, Mckenzie Man ran 23:02.37 and was second among the Payson contingent.
Storm Alexander was close behind in 24:15.88 and Anna Schouten crossed the finish tape in 24:17.78.
Kara Van Zile was clocked in 26:08.23 and was fifth among the PHS runners.
As a team, the Lady Longhorns accumulated a time of 1:59:09.640.
Northland Prep, a Flagstaff area charter school, dominated the classic finishing with 116 points.
Individually, Scottsdale Sahuaro’s Heather Dowdall was first in 19:47.63 over the 5K course.
The Longhorn boys team did not receive a team score because it did not field the minimum five runners.
“We were shorthanded,” said coach Jonathan Ball. The coach, however, didn’t reveal any specific reasons for the absences saying they were for a variety of causes.
In the junior high girls division, Rim Country Middle School was third with 69 points behind champion Coatimundi (33) and Akimel A-Al (49).
For RCMS, Sarah Carter (8:37.84), Journey Alexander (10:30.29), Charlotte Sorenson (10:31.42), Kara Ball (10:42.41) and Perla Luna (11:14.87) competed.
Carter and Alexander are eighth-graders, Ball a seventh-grader and Sorenson, Taylor and Luna are in the sixth grade.
In addition to the classic hosting small school and junior high divisions, there were categories for large schools, sweepstakes, championship, freshmen, open and a community race.
The classic is widely considered one of the premier cross country meets in Arizona.
Because the Payson school district is currently in fall break, some Lady Longhorn runners are taking a brief respite before returning to action Oct. 13 at the Mesa Thunderbird Classic being hosted by Mesa Community College. The meet will feature a collegiate men’s 8K run, collegiate girls 5K event and high school varsity and jayvee 5K.