Dawson Beeson, left, a Payson Cross Country runner is in the thick of the pack.
Photo by Andy Towle.
A huge thrill for high school runners for the past 32 years has been the opportunity to compete in the prestigious Woodbridge Cross Country Classic in Costa Mesa, Calif.
The Classic is one of the premier runs in the western United States partly because it draws runners from a six-state area. Also it’s unique in that it’s conducted in various divisions based on grade level and experience.
Which means, there’s a division for everyone — from the fastest of runners to those just taking up the sport. It’s run over the course of two evenings “under the lights.”
“There is something about when the sun goes down after a long, hot day,” said Payson High coach Johnathan Ball. “Times end up real fast.”
The coach should know — he’s just returned from California where he entered 12 Payson High School runners in the event that is held at Estancia High School.
The Longhorn contingent that traveled to California competed in six different division races some of which drew what Ball calls “gigantic” fields of competitors.
For example, the Junior Boys White division drew 306 entrants.
Beeson turned in a commendable finish taking 113th in 17:37.
Ryland Wala ran in the Sophomore Boys White division and was 125th of 295 runners. He was clocked in 18:46.
“They had to battle crowds of runners,” said Ball. “But I feel the boys competed hard.”
Lady Longhorn runners fared well producing two top-10 finishers. In the Sophomore Girls White competition, Erin Huffman ran to a sixth place finish in 20:32.
“Erin ran sub-20 for the first time in her career, a huge bench mark,” said Ball.
Abby Greenleaf was seventh in the Freshmen Girls White Division in 20:32.
“It was fun to have two kids battling the lead pack in some pretty big races,” said Ball.
At Fountain Hills
On Sept. 8 at Fountain Hills, the PHS cross-country team battled five other schools and a wet and soggy course at the Fountain Hills Invitational.
The Lady Horns raced to a second-place finish accumulating 21 points. Scottsdale Chaparral dominated the meet taking first with a miniscule seven points.
The boys did not receive a team score because the team did not enter the minimum five runners.
In a 34-runner field just three represented PHS. Beeson ran to a 17th-place finish touring the course in a team-best 19.56. Nathaniel Curi was 22nd in 20.47 and Wala took 23rd with a time of 20.54.
In the girls competition, Greenleaf carried the PHS banner finishing seventh in the 32-runner field in 22.44. Huffman was ninth overall breaking the tape in 23.11.
Mackenzie Mann was 15th (25.25) and Kara Van Zile 21st (27.56).
On to Pinetop
Both teams return to action tomorrow, Sept. 22, in the Shane Morris Invitational at Woodland Park in Pinetop.
The 5000-meter event will also include a 2.3-mile middle school/junior high meet.
The meet is named in honor of former Blue Ridge High School runner Shane Morris who graduated in 2006.
His life ended tragically in a four-wheeler accident. His family has been present at the finish line of every race to hand out water bottles and greet the runners.