Most high school athletes get multiple chances to compete on their home field, court or mat.
But not those using the track.
No, Payson’s track and field teams have one home meet.
So Wednesday’s Bubba Nielsen Invitational/Payson Rotary Freshman-Sophomore Meet is the only chance for area residents to see the Longhorn student-athletes in action without a long drive.
The event begins with field events at 2:30 p.m. and should continue for several hours.
This a great opportunity to support these hard-working student-athletes in their only home meet.
It’s the final home meet for several standout seniors, including defending 300-meter hurdles state champion Meredith Kiekintveld, who’s looking to improve on a 2018 state meet that saw her win three medals.
She ranks first in the 300 hurdles, third in the 100 hurdles, fourth in the javelin and sixth in the triple jump.
Brock Davis is ranked second in the 110 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles. He also runs with Cole Tenney, Lance Beckner and Jordan Harger on the second-ranked boys 4x400 relay.
Davis, Tenney, Beckner also run with either Harger or Tim McCarthy on the ninth-ranked 4x100.
Luiz Diaz is No. 3 in the shot put and ninth in the discus. Tenney is ninth in the 300 hurdles.
Savanna White is ranked fourth in the shot put after placing fourth at state in her first year as a thrower last season.
All of the Longhorns would love to compete in front of a large crowd and feel your support.
The main reason the Longhorns don’t have more home meets is they don’t have the timing equipment necessary to record state-qualifying times and distances. If athletes can’t qualify for the state meet with strong performances, it simply won’t attract many schools.
So they have to rent the equipment to hold state-qualifying meets.
“Thanks to Rick Salmon and his crew from Heber Mogollon High School for bringing in the electronic timing equipment to make it a state-qualifying meet,” said Payson coach Jonathan Ball.
Payson has held two meets in most recent years. One is the Purple & Gold Meet in which Longhorns compete against each other in a fun meet.
The other is the Payson Rotary Freshman-Sophomore Meet, which gives underclassmen a chance to compete against fellow freshmen and sophomores and win medals they might not win against upperclassmen.
They didn’t hold the Rotary Meet last year after celebrating the 51st Annual Payson Rotary Meet in 2017 because there simply weren’t enough teams participating.
But Payson officials are trying to change that. They’ll hold an eight-team meet this week in an effort to re-establish the event.
Officials plan to make this an annual event once again and eventually get to the 10-12 teams Payson coach Jonathan Ball would love to have participating.
“Our goal this year is to create a unique meet, giving out a lot of medals where we have multiple divisions,” Ball said. “The goal is to have more than 10 teams so freshmen compete against freshmen and sophomores compete against sophomores.”
With only eight teams, instead of three divisions, they’ll have two, one for varsity and the other for all underclassmen. However, underclassmen may compete in the varsity meet if they wish.
The freshman/sophomore 4x800 and 4x400 relays will be co-ed with two boys and two girls on each relay.
They renamed it this year to honor the late Richard “Bubba” Nielsen III, who died at the age of 22 in a single-vehicle accident in the Valley during the morning rush-hour on March 20, 2017.
Nielsen was a soccer, basketball and track and field standout at Payson High. His grandmother nicknamed him Bubba because he weighed almost nine pounds at birth and the name stuck.
He was a three-time state qualifier in the high jump and also qualified for state in the pole vault his senior season. He finished ninth among 43 finishers in the decathlon in the Arizona Multi-Events State Championships in 2013.
“He was a tremendous athlete,” Ball said. “But the moments I will cherish most with him were in the 2016 high school track season when he was a volunteer assistant for us.
“In just one short season, Bubba’s demeanor and personality, along with his ability to demonstrate, made him a fantastic coach. Bubba’s memory will forever live with the Payson track and field program.”