Payson Runners Improving In Early Going

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The season is just three weeks old, but Payson’s cross country team has already had some strong performances.

The highlight has been Erin Huffman’s victory in the season-opening Payson Invitational on Sept. 4.

But others have also done well.

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Kevin Sandell competed in the JV race for Payson at the Fountain Hills Invitational.

Among them is Abby Greenleaf, who took fifth in the sophomore race at the Chandler Invitational at Tumbleweed Park on Sept. 7. She finished in 21:35. Chandler’s Alexis Nichols won the girls sophomore race in 20:08.

Payson’s Mackenzie Mann brought home her second medal of the year, finishing 30th in the girls sophomore race in 23:56.

“We had so many great efforts by all who participated,” said Longhorns coach Jonathan Ball.

Payson finished 17th among 22 girls teams with 245 points. Tempe Corona del Sol (29) won, followed by Gilbert Highland (35) and Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge (47).

Payson was 11th in the girls’ race at the Fountain Hills Invitational at Fountain Park Sept. 14. It was an impressive 15-team field on the girls’ side. Chaparral won with 47 points, followed by Tempe (93) and Hamilton (118). Rounding out the top 10 were Scottsdale Prep (122), Saguaro (124), Fountain Hills (171), Gilbert (181), Horizon (217), Agua Fria (230) and Goodyear Estrella Foothills (264). PHS had 290 to finish in front of Chandler Seton Catholic (318), Mesa (320), Notre Dame Prep (321) and Maricopa (394).

“It was a very deep field and was quite challenging to our athletes,” Ball said. “We ran a little short-handed without two varsity athletes.”

Greenleaf led the girls team, finishing 34th in 22:56.14 to earn the Longhorns’ lone medal.

“I was also impressed with the races that Mackenzie Mann (59th, 24:53.39) and Anna Schouten (60th, 24:54.19) had,” Ball said. “When Anna runs up with Mackenzie, it changes our team for the better.”

Chaparral freshman Emily Crall won in 19:04.48.

And there were more reasons for optimism.

“Of our returning runners, both boys and girls, all but one runner improved on last year’s time on this same course,” Ball said. “So we are headed in the right direction.”

Junior Maizy Hall finished in 26:29.27 and sophomore Kara Van Zile in 26:36.79.

Ryland Wala, the only PHS runner entered in the boys race, improved his time from the previous year at the same meet by a full minute, crossing in 19:39.30. Seamus White won in 16:19.93 to lead Hamilton to the team title over Saguaro and Chaparral.

Sophomore Alonzo Cohen picked up a junior varsity medal for the Longhorns, finishing 21st in 20:50.38.

Also competing in the JV race for Payson were Kevin Sandell (23:42.84) and Steven Jones (29:13.46).

Freshman Lindsey Wala ran in the JV girls’ race.

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