Despite scheduling issues and a strong headwind, a number of Payson’s track and field athletes gave sound performances Saturday in Fountain Hills.
The Horns took second and third place in 10 events and ended up third overall in the Veterans Invitational.
Erin Huffman is credited with the only first place finish for Payson, with a 12:24 time in the 3,200 meters, beating out fellow teammate Abby Greenleaf, who finished fourth at 13:07.
Coach Jonathan Ball said Huffman was just one of several runners that had a strong showing in a day that also included a number of challenges. From scheduling mix-ups to hot, windy conditions, several athletes did not compete in all of their events.
The official results sheet showed an equal amount of DNS (did not start), as results for the team.
Ball said several athletes could not make their event after organizers changed the schedule the night before and he pulled other athletes out who were not used to running in 90-degree temperatures.
“They hadn’t been in that kind of heat yet,” he said. “The kids started to wear out and dehydrate.”
He said for those who did participate, their times were lower overall because of the wind.
“Our times were not really fast, running into wind,” he said. “It is not good for state qualifying times, but it is good for running tough.”
While both the boys and girls varsity teams came in third overall, Ball said that wasn’t bad, especially since he didn’t run Morgan Chilson, the strongest runner on the girls team.
Chilson has already qualified to run the 100 and 200 meters at state and Ball said he didn’t want to risk injury.
“I am playing it safe with her.”
State will take place May 10-11 in Mesa.
Of the team’s 55 athletes, Ball believes as many as 25 could qualify for state.
The overall size of the team is a huge step up from last year. Participation in track and field in 2011 dwindled to only 35 athletes.
This year, the team started out with 70 and has held steady at 55.
“That is the biggest team I have coached in five years,” he said.
The increase is thanks to a number of freshmen and “they are starting to buy into our program a little bit more.”
On the varsity girls team, Michelle Schatz, Rachel Knauer, Danya Svir and Huffman were the top finishers.
Schatz took second in the 100 meters and third in the 200 meters; Knauer took third in the 400 meters; Huffman took third in the 1,600 meters and first in the 3,200 meters and Svir took second in the high jump.
“Michelle had a good day, she was running really strong,” Ball said.
“And Erin is just crazy good. She is running at a high level right now.”
In the 4x100 and 4x800 relays, Payson took second.
Ball said the 4x100-meter team can run faster, but had hand off issues.
The 4x800-meter relay team had a good time at 10:27, keeping up with Fountain Hills for much of the race.
On the boys team, Ball said Wyatt Chapman and Logan Morris had the best days.
Chapman took second in the 100 meters and 200 meters and Morris took third in the 400.
Chapman is the most dominant freshman “I have ever been around,” Ball said. “He makes my job easy, having someone talented like him.”
Ball noted Morris did exceptionally well in the 400 meters given he had hurt his legs after the high jump, in which he placed fourth.
Trevor Clawson had a personal best in the 400 meters, coming in just under the 54-second mark and taking fourth.
The team heads to Mingus Union High School today, April 19.