Jonathan Ball beamed with pride late Saturday night at Mesa Community College.
The Payson High track and field coach spent a lot of time congratulating his student-athletes as they stepped off the podium throughout the Division 3 state meet on Friday and Saturday.
The Longhorns won eight medals — five girls and three boys. Well, it’s actually 11 if you listen to Ball, who figures the girls fourth-place showing in the 4x100 race counts as four medals, one for each member of that relay.
Either way, Payson athletes stood in one of the top four places on the podium eight different times.
Payson finished 10th in the girls meet with 31 points and 12th in the boys meet with 20.5 points. Snowflake (68) won the girls team championship and Safford edged Snowflake 50-48 for the boys title.
Ball said it’s the most medals any of his teams have won in the nine seasons since the AIA switched to divisions in 2011.
“I’m really proud of this group and what they accomplished,” Ball said. “It was the most successful D-III state meet we have ever had in terms of medals.
“In 2009 the AIA switched from medaling eight deep to only medaling four. In 2011 they moved to the divisions. That first year we didn’t take home any medals. In 2013, we were on the podium for two relays and two individuals The 10 medals was the most we ever had in the division era until this year.
“It was a great two days for us. We had kids really work hard and it paid off real nicely. It’s so hard to be top four in D-III and we spent a lot of time over those two days at the awards stand.”
A trio of seniors led the way to the medal stand.
Meredith Kiekintveld and Savanna White both won two individual medals and also ran on the 4x100 relay.
And classmate Brock Davis finished second (39.84 seconds) in the boys 300-meter hurdles and fourth (15.53) in the 110 hurdles.
Another senior, Luis Diaz, finished fourth in the boys discus (141 feet 4 inches).
Kiekintveld was hoping to repeat as the girls 300 hurdles champion and came as close as she could without actually winning. She finished in 45.87 seconds, just 1/100th of a second behind Flagstaff Coconino senior Woodlyn Smith, who leaned and fell across the finish line in 45.86. She crashed to the track and Kiekintveld followed her down.
Hitting a hurdle in the far turn temporarily threw Kiekintveld off her stride and likely cost her another championship. But she cleared the final hurdle with a slight lead and Smith only passed her at the finish line.
Kiekintveld topped her 45.89 in winning last year’s title but it just wasn’t quite good enough. She also finished fourth in the 100 hurdles in 15.78.
And she ran the third leg on the 4x100 relay that placed fourth in 51.19. That quartet started with freshman MaKenzie Brade handing to Savanna White, who handed to Kiekintveld, who handed to senior Hannah Goldman. They ran the third-fastest preliminary heat time, 51.09. Brade hadn’t run in the event until Friday as she replaced freshman Emmy White, who wasn’t able to compete because of injury.
Savanna White also placed third in the discus (112-4) and fourth in the shot put (33-2.75). She also placed fourth in the shot put in her first year as a thrower last season. Additionally, she finished 23rd (67-4) in the javelin.
Goldman finished seventh in the triple jump (33-5.75). Sophomore Faith Haught finished 22nd in the discus (81-4).
Davis, Cole Tenney, Lance Beckner and Jordan Harger tied for sixth in the 4x400 (3:28.54). Snowflake finished ninth. It’s the first time Payson’s boys have beaten the Lobos in that event in six years, according to Ball. Snowflake would have earned 2.5 points and won the team state title had its 4x400 relay finished where Payson did.
“Overall nothing but positive came from this state meet,” Ball said.
Sophomore Trevor Cline placed 13th (40-5) in the triple jump. Sophomore Bridger Harger tied for 14th (5-10) in the high jump. Diaz placed 21st (42-7.5) in the shot put.