Cross country races in the U.S. awaits the Payson High School teams today, Sept. 28, at Toga Stick Golf Course in Gilbert.
A field of about 100 teams, some from as far away as Alabama, will compete in the Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival that is run partly in the evening hours under the golf course’s lights.
The meet also features 20 divisions for all skill levels, including championship, freshmen, varsity, open, sweepstakes, national elite, small school and large school.
PHS coach Johnathan Ball calls the festival one of the highlights of the team schedule and says the local runners look forward to competing in it each year.
A pair of Payson runners, McKyla McCrary and Erin Huffman, competed last year in the Festival.
In the varsity girls division that drew 169 entrants, McCrary was a very respectable 21st in 21:54.6 and Huffman was 26th in 22:06.9.
With an additional year of maturity and experience buoying the two, they could do even better today.
The PHS cross country teams tuned up for the big meet on Sept. 22 at the Shane Morris Invitational at Woodland Park in Pinetop.
In the girls varsity division, Huffman paced the Lady Longhorn effort, running to a ninth-place finish in the 43-runner field. Huffman was clocked in 22:26.74 over the 5K course.
McCrary was 20th in 24:11.94, McKenzie Mann took 24th in 24:24.48 and Storm Alexander stormed through the finish tape in 25:36.55 to take 27th, Kara Van Zile was 30th running an ET of 26:06.52. Payson’s sixth runner, Anna Schouten crossed the finish line in 27:09.38 and was 35th.
As a team, the Lady Longhorns were fourth with 72 points. A very powerful Mingus team posted 47 points and was first.
In the girls open division that drew 39 entrants, Katie Schouten ran to 10th place, clocking 28:23.78. Kiki York ran 33:41.23 and was 26th.
In the boys varsity division, only Dawson Beeson and Ryland Wala represented Payson. Beeson was timed in 20:02.50 and was 23rd among 49 runners. Wala ran 20:10.87 and was 24th.
Alonzo Cohen represented the Longhorns in the boys open race and took 11th among 24 in a time of 23:17.71.
Combined team scores for both boys and girls varsity runners were also kept, but PHS did not receive a score because the boys team did not field the minimum number of five runners.