A solid core of top-notch student-athletes emerged during the 2012-2013 season to lead Payson High School teams in their quest for wins, playoff berths and individual honors.
Some are also among the best in Division III and around the state.
Among them are:
• PHS junior baseball player Nick McMullen has this season used his 6-foot, 5-inch frame for good power — slapping three doubles, two triples and four home runs.
His HR blasts are characteristically boomers that sail over the centerfield batter’s eye.
His home run mark ties him for second in Division III with Andrew Bryniarski of Fountain Hills who also has four.
In slugging percentage, McMullen is division fifth-ranked with a 1.094 average.
While it’s obvious McMullen is a gifted hitter, he also shines on defense as a first baseman, outfielder and pitcher.
Although he didn’t pitch last season due to an arm strain, McMullen returned to the mound March 12 in a 6-4 win over Snowflake.
In the close, hard-fought game that could have gone either way, coach Brian Young called on McMullen to relieve in the third inning with one out and the bases jam-packed with Lobo base runners.
McMullen rose up to pitch out of the jam without giving up a run and went on to finish four complete innings giving up two hits while striking out four and walking one.
• PHS senior Morgan Chilson has for the past three seasons been one of the primer track and field sprinters in the state.
This season, her goal is to become ever better in the 100 meters and help the 4x100 relay team qualify for the stat finals.
To mark her mark in the 100, Chilson must best the 12.77 she ran April 20, 2012 at the Eastern Arizona Rotary Invitational in Thatcher.
This year, she has broken in coveted 13-second barrier twice but has not set a PR.
She believes she has a shot at setting a personal best because she has worked to correct her form out of the starting blocks and is concentrating in weight training on improving her leg strength.
Chilson readily admits her starting form often was “horrible” partly because she rose too quickly out of the block rather than staying low and firing out, “I was straight up, which is not good.”
The speedster credits new assistant coach Amy Buckner, a former Lady Horn sprinter and relay team member, with helping correct her form.
“She has been teaching me a lot, I really like having her (as a coach),” Chilson said.
If the relay team is to contend for state honors, the four will during the course of the season need to approach the coveted 50-second barrier.
Last year, the fastest time the Chilson-led foursome turned in was 51.20, which was at the Snowflake Invitational.
However, three members of that team have graduated and must be replaced.
Chilson is expecting Michelle Schatz, a transfer from California, to join the team to run the anchor leg. “She is really fast, so she will really help our team,” Chilson said.
The relay group will be rounded out by the addition of Danya Svir and Rachel Knauer, Chilson said.
• Payson High School senior Chioya Hill’s prowess on the boards and on the defensive end of the court earned Hill a spot on the Holiday Hoops All-Tournament team following its competition Dec. 29, 2012 in Wilson Dome.
The celestial squad was selected in a voting of tournament coaches.
Coach Jen White contends it was Hill’s rebounding, she averaged almost 15 a tournament game, which prompted coaches to vote for her.
In 2012-13 season, Hill led the team in rebounding averaging 18.5 per game and eventually set a single game rebounding record.
Hill also threatened to break the single season rebounding mark of 312 set by Trista Carlton in 2003 and the career record of 1,017 set by Amberlyn White in 1994-97.
Hill’s rebounding average ranked second, by .2 of a rebound per game, in both Division III and Section III to Wickenburg’s Cora Morales.
Of Hill’s rebounds this past season, a big majority were on the defensive end which eliminated put backs and second shot attempts by opponents. Her defensive rebounds also get the Lady Longhorn fast break offense off and running.
Hill was also second on the team in blocked shots and 10 steal.
While Hill is known for her rebounding and defensive know-how, she also is a proven scorer averaging 10-plus ppg.
• Although the Payson High boys soccer team turned in one of the finest seasons in program history, they did it without a true superstar.
Instead coach Chris Avakian led the team to the state semifinals behind the efforts 15 seniors fueled by strong work ethics.
Of those seniors, Division IV coaches voted to honor seven for the stellar play during the past season.
Bubba Nielson, Jeffrey Kelley, Guillermo Lopez, Noe Vega and Logan Morris were named to All-Division first team and Isom White and John Buskirk received honorable mention.
Vega, Lopez and Morris are all repeat honorees, having been named All-Division last season.
Nielson, the team’s leading scorer, played forward where he provided the points the team needed to reach the state semifinals the past two seasons. Nielson, 5-foot, 9 inches and 150 pounds, also shines on the PHS basketball team and is a high jumper on the track squad.
Jeffrey Kelley might be best known for his exploits on the highly successful Longhorn golf team, but this past season in soccer he proved to be a force to reckon with, playing midfielder and forward.
Lopez, a midfielder, has been a vital cog in the Longhorn offense for three seasons. Among his finest efforts in 2012 might have been his overall solid play in Payson’s state first-round come-from-behind overtime 3-2 wins over Camp Verde.
Morris, a defender and the 2012 homecoming king, paced the Horns to a 0-0 early season tie against two-time defending champion Blue Ridge that end the Yellow Jackets’ 57-match winning streak.
•The past three boy’s basketball seasons at PHS could have been titled “The Tanner Hintze Show”
That’s because the 6-foor, 4 inch low-post stalwart was one of the best players in Division III and most often dominated play on both ends of the court.
During Hintze’ junior campaign he led the team in scoring, averaging 15.4 ppg, which was sixth highest in Section III and 12th best in Division III.
Most of his points came in the low blocks where he was able to muscle his way to the hoop for layups, turnaround jumpers, put backs or be fouled.
In fact, he led the Horns in free throw attempts with 122, making 87. That mark was third highest in S-III.
Hintze also led the Horns on the boards, averaging 5.4 rebounds per game.
As a sophomore two years ago, Hintze was named 3A East All-Region First Team after leading the Horns in scoring (12.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.7 per game).
His senior year of 2012-13, Hintze played both the 4 and 5 positions, which means he spend most of his time battling down low for rebounds, put backs and close-in shots.
“He’s our only legitimate 5,” Sanchez said.
Among Hintze’s strengths was that he was able to play with his back to the basket or facing it, which is a rarity in high school basketball.