Jonathan Ball is excited.
Payson High’s cross country coach loves what he’s seeing from his runners.
The Longhorns had five runners medal in the Chandler Valley Christian Invitational at Kiwanis Park on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Four of those medals were earned by the girls team, which placed third, despite being shorthanded.
“I thought this was a great team effort; the best we have had this season,” Ball said. “We were without Anna Schouten, who is typically our fourth runner but was out of town. We needed a few girls to step up.”
And that’s just what they happened as five Longhorns were among the top 33 finishers in a field of 94 girls.
Erin Huffman led the way, finishing fifth in 21:31. She was followed by Abby Greenleaf (11th in 22:44), Mackenzie Mann (12th in 22:48), Storm Alexander (24th in 24:56) and Kara Van Zile (33rd in 25:49). Kiki York also ran, crossing 65th in 30:37.
“It was a great team effort because Erin and Abby were steady, as always, but then we had Mackenzie, Storm and Kara really step up big,” Ball said. “I was really impressed with the effort levels of the latter three. Having four girls pick up medals in the same race is really exciting.
“That was Storm’s first varsity cross country medal. So I was really proud of her. We ended up just 16 points out of first.”
There was also reason for the coach to be excited about the boys team, which actually fielded a complete team.
“This was the first time in two years we had a varsity boys cross country team score points,” Ball said. “I was impressed with the guys and the way they hung in there and competed.”
Dawson Beeson paced the Longhorns by finishing in 19:05 to place 23rd among 155 runners to earn his first medal of the season.
Ryland Wala got tripped up and hit the pavement in the first half of the race. But he recovered and moved up from 44th place to finish 31st in 19:35. “He showed great toughness bouncing back after his fall,” Ball said.
Octavio Valenzuela placed 58th in 20:51. “Octavio ran well, once again, finishing in the top third,” Ball said.
Kevin Price (22:55) finished 100th and Kevin Sandell (23:04) 103rd.
“I thought Kevin Price worked about as hard as I have ever seen anyone work in a race before,” the coach said. “He was really running tough.”
The coach is optimistic about what lies ahead this season.
“Overall, we keep making improvements,” Ball said.
The Longhorns are scheduled to compete in the Twilight Southwest Invitational at Toka Sticks Golf Course in Gilbert on Friday.