At the start of season 1, Payson is the star of 'The Rock' a gymnastics training facility. She is the best in the sport at her age and thinks she is as well. She thinks that apart of spending time at the rock, training, everything else is a waste of time. At the time she is being trained by her coach of 2 years Marty along with her two best friends Kaylie and Lauren. When new girl Emily Kmetko comes along she creates some enemies especially Lauren who doesn't want her to take her 3rd place spot. Payson doesn't mind her being there and actaully likes her company because Payson believes Emily deserves to be there as she is quite good. After Lauren is knocked from her 3rd place spot at the National trials by Emily she goes to her father, Steve Tanner, and asks him to do something about it. Steve then blackmails Marty into leaving the rock and going to the 'Denver Elites' the second best club in the country with the rock being the first by saying he would tell people about his relationship with Kaylie's mother and how he is having an affair with her. Marty leaves with Lauren in tow who also leaves to go to Denver leaving The Rock without a coach, with the tryouts for Nationals in 2 weeks. Payson couldn't believe Marty left after 5 years and decided to go and see him and convince him to come back.
When there, Payson tells Marty that the only reason she is good is because of him. Marty tells her purposely that he decided it on his own and he likes Denver more, so she would realise she doesn't need him to become National champion and to do it on her own. Soon enough the rock gets a new coach Sasha who was the only gymnast ever to beat Marty for the gold at the olympics. Lauren also comes back with a cold welcoming, before the coach's strict work regime kicks in Payson, Kaylie and Emily decide to go to a high school kegger. Payson can't believe she is at such a trivial event and wants to leave, she doesn't get drunk or even have fun. But that night Lauren came by the party and loses her virginity to Carter, Kaylie's secret boyfriend as her birthday didn't go so well. After the keg party Sasha somehow finds out and calls all the girls in on their only day off to make them do a vigourous work out as punishment for getting drunk, Payson blames all her friends for making her go to the party in the first place. Sasha then decides to sort out all the friends problems out by asking them to write down their dissagreements on a piece of paper and throw them in the bin where he will set them on fire signalling there over, but not before he reads them aloud.
Payson writes down that she wished all her friends worked as hard as her and that she thinks she is better than everybody else, which upsets her friends but not for long. In "Like Mother, Like Daughter, Like Supermodel" the mothers set up a mother-daughter fashion show to raise money to send them all to Nationals. Sasha tells Payson that she has power and strength in her gymnastics performance but needs the feminie side to and wants to see that next time, Payson then asks Sasha if she can get out of the runway as she doesn't like wearing girly things in front of people, Sasha says she has to and that it might help her. Payson's mother Kim is not exactly girly either and Sasha tips her off that maybe she hasn't been the greatest role model in the feminine world. Kim then forces Payson to get on stage and be girly at the fashion show and Payson loves it, and has loads of fun. In "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" Sasha invites the Denver team now coached by Marty to the rock for a competition, Payson is determined to show she is the best especially to Kelly Parker the regining Nationals champion, who she doesn't like. But an old injury in her back flares up hurting her after complicated lifts to which she is determined to do. She then asks her mom for a cortisone shot which helps her with pain which she decided Payton would have every six months but only had 2 months ago, Payson begs her mom but she won't allow it.
At the meet Payson becomes ahead of Kelly Parker in the competition but after a lift she really hurts her back asking her for another cortisone shot to which her mom gives her. Payson then beats Kelly in points to which makes her more determined to do at Nationals. Also at the meet Emily goes against Sasha's advice, losing the meet for the whole team, which gets her kicked out. Emily eventually comes back though, Payson then finds out her dad lost his job and is now selling beer, he eventually gets a new job but it is in Minnesota so he travels back and forth. The week before Nationals even after the cortisone shot Payson is still experiencing back pain which her fellow gymnast Nicky who has a crush on her, has a solution for. His dad is an orthapedic surgeon and he can forge the signature and get it illegally to which does and gives it to her at the Cruz family party but she doesn't take it yet. In "Where's Kaylie?" Kaylie has run off the day before Nationals after she finds out Carter slept with someone else, Payson and Lauren figure out that Kaylie had run off to the gymastics camp they went to as kids and let Emily tag along as they go to find her. Eventually Kaylie figures out it was Lauren who slept with Carter, and there whole friendship falls apart with Kaylie saying to Lauren she'll be her team mate but will never be her friend again. At Nationals Payson starts off great but the next day while on the uneven bars her back hurts too much and she falls breaking her back and ending up in the hospital with the doctors telling her that her back is inoperable and she will never do gymnastics again which breaks her heart. Kaylie eventually becomes National Champion making Payson jealous.
In the episode, "Save the Last Dance," Payson's family learns that a surgeon believes she can operate on Payson's back and enable her to compete in gymnastics again. Payson goes through with the surgery and begins training again, but the changes in her body after her injury require her to start almost from scratch.
With Sasha's help, Payson develops a more artistic style of gymnastics and successfully petitions onto the World's Team. During her training, she develops a crush on Sasha and impulsively kisses him, but Sasha pushes her away. Payson gives Sasha his medal back in Hungary Heart after saying he can have it back after she says he was brave, fearless and stood for what was right. He's now the exact different from the example he stood for. She and Sasha have made amends since he returned from Romania.
Payson falls on her ankle at Worlds, but came through for her team, her parents, and Sasha when she did her last vault flawlessly and stuck the landing on one foot. Payson is the most determined and serious of all the gymnasts, even though they all share the same ambition. She is swayed by Max, but says that she will not let a boy "get in her head and mess with her game."
But she told Max that she loved him, but she said she made a mistake doing that. She waited for Max to answer her but he said nothing. She said she was sorry and that and that "We should forget all about this" and "Just Be Friends" Max was not sure what to think. After she leave the room. She start to cry on her way out. She felt like a totally fool. But she is so much more then that. She makes mistakes but she also corrects them. And does her best to try anything, and to believe in herself.
- Kim Keeler: Payson's mother and co-manager of the Rock.
- Mark Keeler: Payson's father.
- Becca Keeler: Payson's younger sister who is also a gymnast, but is not as serious about gymnastics as Payson is.