DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for more than three decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Increased maturity should help Gator runner Innes

Helen Innes just started her senior year at Xavier Prep, and she is going to do everything she can to make it the most memorable of her four years.

She follows a path that successfully blends strong academics with ever-improving work as a runner for Xavier’s cross-country team. She also runs on the track team and is the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper/online production, the Xpress.

The Gator runners have been practicing in the mornings before school at approximately 5:30 a.m. to escape the heat. The team returns a competitive group of runners, including Innes, as well as a number of promising freshmen who have been trying out.

Innes has enjoyed working with the younger runners because it wasn’t so long ago that she was one of them herself.

“Getting up at around 4:30 or so to get here on time – that says a lot about them,’’ she said.

“I was thinking about how time here has gone so fast. Two girls who were seniors when I was a freshman – Shannan Higgins and Jane Miller – worked out with us and it kind of hit me. They helped me a lot then, so I try to do the same now with the younger girls.’’

Her advice to the freshmen: “High school is what you make of it. When I was a freshman, I was involved with cross country and track, and with the newspaper when I took a class as a sophomore. It’s a matter of putting yourself out there, trying to take advantage of new opportunities. You have to be self-motivated a lot of the time, because there usually is no one to tell you to do your homework.’’

Xavier senior Helen Innes is ready to run like the wind  (Photo by Don Ketchum).
Her work with the Xpress doesn’t necessarily involve assigning stories as much as it is give and take with writers during brainstorming sessions. Video and podcasts also are becoming a part of the mix.

“There are so many aspects to it. They’re all very interesting,’’ she said.

She plans to continue to run and perhaps write for the school newspaper in college – she is leaning toward Claremont McKenna in the Los Angeles area and is interested in pursuing a degree in international relations.

“I think I’ll be ready,’’ she said.

She has run in California before – at a couple of midseason events. She also ran in Oregon in last year’s George Fox Invitational.  She was 23rd among several hundred runners there. She also got an opportunity to reconnect with family that lives in the area.

“My parents have been very supportive,’’ she said. “They come out to all the meets. They are always there.’’

Xavier’s first meet will come on Sept.1 in the Peaks Invitational at Flagstaff’s Buffalo Park. Innes believes she is ready to blossom.

“I think I am a lot smarter than before, paying attention to some of the little things that can help you,’’ she said. “You have to realize if you haven’t been getting enough sleep, particularly the night before a meet. You have to be smarter about training.’’

The season is drawing closer, but cooler weather is not ready to do so yet. Part of Innes’ process each night before the early practices involves packing her breakfast and lunch, shower bag and school uniform and making sure her homework has been completed.

Running also allows the athletes to eat a lot of pasta and protein.

Sugar, like what is in desserts? Not so much.

“Once in awhile, you have a cookie. It keeps you sane,’’ Innes said, laughing. “We have talked about that in the past in the van. It is something to look forward to at the end of the race as a treat.’’

Dave Van Sickle is Innes’ coach in cross country and track. He is happy to have her return for one more season.

“She has always been pretty steady, even from the beginning as a freshman,’’ he said.

Innes is changing her ways. She is proud to have gained maturity and that can make a big difference in the classroom (a 4.0 weighted grade-point average) and on the race course.

“As a freshman, I wasn’t worried too much about anything (results), other than trying to survive,’’ she said. “As a sophomore and again as a junior, I was usually in the middle of the pack.

“I was sort of scared to make a move. I would get intimidated. But I am a senior now and I am not scared anymore. I speak in front of a writing class.

”I am ready to break out and lead the pack, run my own race. Some of your strategy depends on the course, but I want to start faster and make the big push the last mile and a half (out of 3 miles).’’

She picked up the trophy that Xavier earned as last year’s state runner-up and was ready to pose for a photo.

A school staff person walked by, stopped and said, “Oh, wow, is that yours?’’ Innes said no, it was the result of a team effort.

“This year, if I get one of these things (as an individual winner or top finisher at state), it will be a great day,’’ Innes said.

A great day, indeed.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Five Gator tennis players in top form

Another great achievement for the Xavier Prep tennis program!

Over the weekend in Albuquerque, five Xavier players teamed up with five boys from area schools to win the 18 Advanced USTA Sectionals.

The group will advance to the Nationals in November at the Home of America Tennis facility in Orlando. Four Xavier juniors competed – Erica Stutz, Emily Even, Lorelei Glidden and Jessica Mirmelli. And one freshman rounded out the five – Ryan Kershner.

The group was coached by Xavier assistant coach Ford Oliver.

Congratulations to all!!
The five Xavier players along with coach Ford Oliver, right. From left are Lorelei Glidden, Jessica Stutz, Jessica Mirmelli, Emily Even and Ryan Kershner. (Xavier tennis photo).

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Gator volleyball set academic standard in 2017-18

The 2017-18 Xavier Prep volleyball team set the bar high on the court by winning the Division I state championship, and raised the bar in the classroom.

In late July, the Gators have been named as an Academic All-American team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

To be considered for this honor, teams must have at least a 3.30 grade-point average (on a scale of 4.0) or a 4.10 GPA (on a scale of 5.0). Xavier was on a 4.0 scale.

Xavier was one of nine schools from Arizona to be recognized. There were 975 schools nationwide (girls and boys combined) that were chosen.

“We are honored to be represented as outstanding athletes, but equally proud of the team’s academic success,’’ said XCP coach Lamar-Renee Bryant.

Xavier athletes, it's time to get busy

Of Xavier Prep’s three sports “seasons’’ – fall, winter and spring – fall is perhaps the busiest.

So, Gators, if you are interested in participating as a member of one of the school’s many teams, make sure you have your equipment ready and, above all, make sure you stay hydrated. All athletes must have their annual physicals on file.

Badminton – Open gym for new players on Monday, Aug. 6 (1-3 p.m.) and Tuesday, Aug. 7 (3:30-5:30 p.m.) in the Activity Center. Open gym for all players on Wednesday, Aug. 8 and Thursday, Aug. 9, from 3:30-5:30 both days in the Activity Center.

Tryouts for all students will be held Aug. 13 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. and on Aug. 14-15 from 3:15 p.m.-5:30 p.m. in the Activity Center. Susan Contreras is the head coach and will be assisted by Francis Hartojo.

Fall schedules in all sports are expected to be available soon.

Cross country – Tryouts for all athletes Aug. 7-9 beginning at 5:15 a.m. at the Brophy College Prep track. The head coach is Dave Van Sickle with Vito Perrone, Eden Higgins and Joshua Trevino serving as assistants.

Frosh tennis – Freshmen, come out and play! Coach Laurie Martin’s program is no-cut.

Position rounds for all immediate and advanced players who have played at least some tennis are Monday, Aug. 13 through Thursday, Aug. 16 from 3-5 p.m. at the Stark Tennis Center. New and beginning players will gather on the courts on Monday, Aug. 20 after school.

Come dressed to play in shorts and T-shirts and bring your racket. If you do not have a racket, Xavier will provide one for you.

A parent/player program meeting will be held Aug. 22 at 6 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.

Crew/rowing (club) – The new season begins with a Learn to Row Class led by coach Peter Figgins.

It will be held Aug. 20-21 at the Xavier Spin Room, from 3:40-5:30 p.m.

The class location will then shift to the Xavier Boat House at the Tempe Town Lake. Dates and times: Aug. 22-23 (4-6:30 p.m.), Aug. 25 (7-9 a.m.) and Aug. 27-29 (4-6:30 p.m.)

Check the XCP Web site for information updates.

Golf – The latest great group of Gators (seven straight state titles, 35 overall) will begin with a mandatory tryout meeting at 2:45 p.m. on Aug. 7 in Lutfy Hall.

Tryouts will take place at the Phoenix Country Club, 7th Street and Thomas Road. The dates are Aug. 8-10. Athletes will meet in the office of co-head coach Sr. Lynn Winsor before boarding the bus that will take them to the golf course. Tui Selvaratnam shares the head-coaching duties.

Tryout dates are Aug. 8 (office at 1:55 p.m., bus leaves at 2:10 p.m.), Aug. 9 (office at 1:55, bus leaves at 2:10) and Aug. 10 (office at 1:15 p.m., bus leaves at 1:30 p.m.).  Sessions will last until 5 p.m. on the first two days and 4:45 on the third day.

Swim-dive – After winning the state championship in one of the most memorable seasons in school history, the girls are ready to get back in the water at the Brophy Prep Pool.

The Gators will be coached by Mark Rankin and Jennifer James.

Swimmers and divers will participate in the Advanced Physical Education swim class. It meets during 7th period Monday through Thursday. Practice will then continue for an additional hour after class. Once the team has been selected, class schedules may be adjusted to accommodate swim class.

Athletes should be prepared to swim/dive in a one-piece suit and have caps, goggles, towels, sunscreen and water bottles.

Students will meet in F111 after school and walk to Brophy together for the tryouts.

Swim tryouts are Aug. 7-9 from 3-4:30 p.m. The first full practice will be Aug. 10 at 5:30 a.m.

Frank Pipitone and Laura Forbes will coach the divers. Their tryout times are Aug. 7-9 from 5-7 p.m.

Volleyball – The road to a possible second straight state championship began July 31 and was due to continue Aug. 1-3 with open gym in the afternoon in the Activity Center.

The head coach is Lamar-Renee Bryant, and she will be assisted by Chaz Arah, Kristin Preach, Ana Panagiotakpoulos, Jenny Scott, Jamie Itule and Nicole Blauvelt.

Freshman tryouts will be held Aug. 6 (1-3 p.m.) and Aug. 7-8 (3:30-5 p.m. both days) in Vestar Hall.

Freshman tryouts will be held Aug. 7-9 at Vestar Hall, 1-3 p.m. the first day and from 3:30-5:30 p.m. the other two days.

Tryouts for sophomores, juniors and seniors will be held those same dates. Times are 3-5 p.m. the first day and 5-7:30 p.m. the other two days.

Spirit Line and Gator Line – Sophomores, juniors and seniors were selected in April, and freshmen and incoming transfers had tryouts on July 26. Check the XCP Web site for additional information.

Club sports – Xavier will have a Mountain Biking Club and the Hotshots archery and clay target shooting team. Check the Web site for additional information.

Athletic training – Classes for students interested in learning about sports health care and working with Head Athletic Trainer Laurie White to provide for the Gators’ sports teams will begin this month. See your guidance counselor for more information about the appropriate prerequisites and registering for White’s Athletic Training Class. Hannah Gray and Katie Kendall are back for another year as White's assistants.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sr. Lynn named to Arizona Sports Hall of Fame

Sr. Lynn Winsor is entering her 45th year at Xavier Prep, most of it as the athletic director, golf coach and vice principal for activities.

Her face is familiar to those associated with high school sports across Arizona as well as in national prep circles.

So it should really be no surprise to learn that she is among six new inductees into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame.

Sr. Lynn Winsor.

Winsor joins late former Arizona State and Arizona Cardinals player Pat Tillman, 10-time Olympic swimming medalist Gary Hall Jr., University of Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea, former Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Grace and former Scottsdale Chaparral softball coach Jeff Oscarson, who also played baseball at Scottsdale Saguaro and at Mesa Community College.

The induction ceremony will be held Nov. 1 at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort.

Winsor, a graduate of Xavier and Arizona State, is very excited to become an inductee because one of her former Xavier golfers, the late Heather Farr, was inducted in 2013. The Hall of Fame has been in existence since 1957.

“It is a tribute to the school, all the girls I have coached, Coach Tui Selvaratnam (current co-head coach), all my past assistant coaches and all the people I have worked with here at Xavier Prep.’’

Xavier has won 35 state golf championships and claimed five state runners-up under Winsor’s leadership, including seven in a row. She is proud that 55 percent of her golfers over the years have played college golf and six players have gone on to play professionally on the LPGA Tour.

“This is a huge honor. I am humbled by it,’’ Winsor said.