DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four 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.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Xavier adds mountain biking to menu

Did you know that XCP has joined a growing list of schools from across Arizona and the nation that participate in the sport of mountain biking?
Yes, it’s true! A group of adventurous, strong-willed Gators has teamed up with sibling Brophy Prep to become a part of the Arizona Cycling League. The league is part of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.
The latest XCP roster lists five riders – Morgan Foster, Lucy Lawler, Natalie Muller, Eden Steinhilber and Payton Thompson.
Thompson and Lawler competed in a recent event at Pioneer Park in Prescott and will join their teammates on Sept. 28 when they compete in an event along the Fort Valley Trail System in Flagstaff.
Other races will be held at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills (Oct. 12), the SARA Park Rodeo Grounds in Lake Havasu City (Oct. 26) and the White Tank Regional Park in Waddell (Nov. 9).
The Gators are coached by Nikki Minnick, a Phoenix firefighter for 13 years and mother of three young children. Fellow firefighters have long been involved with the sport, including Rich Perrott, who serves as Brophy’s coach and has helped Minnick get the Xavier program started.
Minnick said she fell in love with mountain biking quite some time ago and wants her kids to have the same experience.
“That’s one of the reasons why I have become involved with this program. I want to help build it so it is still around when my kids are old enough to try it,’’ Minnick said.
She doesn’t know if it will reach the level of popularity that the sport has in northern California, which is in its 10th year and has about 1,000 participants, but she is going to try.
Some riders have their own equipment while others do not. Minnick said a Valley bike shop has donated 25 bikes to the league, and if more are needed, “we will find a way to get these kids on bikes,’’ she said. “Many of the ones being donated are Pivots, which are among the best you can get. The guy who is doing it has been great. He just wants to give back to the community.’’
It is Minnick’s goal to have her riders practice once in the morning during the early part of the week, after school on Thursdays and again on Saturdays.
Some races are held on trails and some on tracks, where riders go a certain number of laps depending on their year in school.
“Our girls have been great,’’ Minnick said. “They have hearts of gold. When they fall down, they get back up and they stick with it.’’
If the mountain bikers follow the tradition of excellence established by the other Xavier sports teams, it shouldn’t be long before they, too, are among the state’s best.

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