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.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Fitzpatrick helps Xavier golf win 2nd straight

Led by senior medalist Mikayla Fitzpatrick, the Xavier golf team won its second match in as many attempts on Monday (Aug. 31), 146-162 over Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep. The match was played at McDowell Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale.
Fitzpatrick shot a 4-under-par 32 over nine holes. Xavier was 2 over par as a team.
The Gators will play again on Wednesday (Sept. 2) against Phoenix North Canyon at the Orange Tree Golf Club in Scottsdale.
Xavier also will play in the Antigua Invitational on Friday and Saturday at McCormick Ranch Golf Course in Scottsdale.

Carrie Markham takes over softball program

Things are about to get a lot more interesting for high school softball in the Valley.
Carrie Markham has been named to replace Bobby Pena as head coach at Xavier Prep, and she now will get the opportunity to coach against her cousin, Michelle, who led Glendale Mountain Ridge to the Division I state championship in 2015.
The transition for Carrie Markham probably will be a bit easier since she served as an assistant coach for Pena the last three years, and the returning Gator players will have more of an idea of what to expect than if someone came in from the outside. Pena left Xavier to become head coach at Glendale Community College.
Markham will have Joe Bogart return as an assistant, and has been working on getting a second assistant.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity,’’ Markham said. “I really had a chance to learn a lot from Bobby, who knows the game like nobody else. There might be a few changes next spring, but I don’t think there will be many. We still expect to play a disciplined game.’’

New XCP softball coach Carrie Markham.
 Markham was a pitcher at Bourgade Catholic in Phoenix and at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, and will have the luxury of two outstanding senior pitchers returning for XCP, Caitlyn Dickman and Emily Richards.
Xavier also will have two other key seniors, shortstop Becky Ducar and center fielder Megan Donahey.
“The team culture has always been one of camaraderie,’’ Markham said. “We never seem to have any issues. The girls get along well and it shows on the field.’’
Xavier fell to Mountain Ridge and Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor in last season’s Division I state tournament, but still finished with an outstanding 26-8 record.
“We were disappointed with the way the season ended, but the girls are ready to come back strong and we feel like we have some younger girls who can step up,’’ Markham said.
Markam’s father and Michelle Markham’s father are brothers.
“It’s always fun to play them, because a lot of the girls know each other from club ball,’’ Carrie Markham said. “It should be a little more interesting now.’’
She is thankful for the support that softball and other sports receive from the XCP administration and the parents.
“The support is way beyond other schools,’’ Markham said. “Whatever we need, people are willing to help us out. And the facilities are beautiful.’’
Particularly Petznick Field, the Gators’ home.

Swimmers, divers ready for strong season

Fresh off an energetic effort in last week’s annual intrasquad meet, the Xavier Prep swimming and diving team is ready to rock in its season opener on Thursday (Sept. 3) at Chandler High.
The Gators are led by second-year coach Kelley Conrad and long-time diving coach Frank Pipitone.
“I’m seeing a lot of positives and the willingness to work hard,’’ said Conrad. “We are a close-knit team and I think we are more well-rounded than last year (when XCP finished fourth in the Division I state meet).
“We want to swim fast and have fun doing it.’’

Xavier swimmers mark the spot at Brophy pool. (Photo courtesy Sr. Lynn Winsor).
One swimmer who hopes to follow that aqua blueprint is Allie Worrall, a senior co-captain. She competes in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. She finished eighth in the 50 free and sixth in the 100 free in the state meet.
Worrall suffered a shoulder injury as a sophomore, came back last year after rehabilitation and this year says she is at full strength.
“I have been practicing my springs with a good tempo, and I think I have improved a lot with the walls and turns,’’ said Worrall, who is due to make three visits to potential colleges this fall.
“I still feel I will be able to qualify (for the state meet),’’ she said.
Pipitone has been coaching diving for about 25 years, including a handful of years at Xavier. He also coaches diving at neighboring Brophy Prep.
“This is probably the best group of girls I have had as a coach,’’ he said. “The character these girls have is amazing. There’s a lot to be said for that.
“I think we are going to be strong this year. We have four freshmen coming in who should help us be really competitive.’’
Xavier’s top diver will be senior captain Libby Decker. Camryn Olhausen and Alyssa Largay will battle for the No. 2 spot, and the No. 3 spot during meets is up for grabs with just about everyone having a chance.
“We are versatile, so it will come down to who is diving the best at that particular time,’’ Pipitone said.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Champion badminton team dominates vs. Saguaro

Xavier Prep's two-time defending state champion badminton team began the 2015 in grand style on Thursday (Aug. 27) with a 9-0 victory over host Scottsdale Saguaro.
The Gators' JV squad also won by a score of 9-0.
Xavier opens its home schedule on Sept. 3 against Phoenix Sunnyslope.

Freshman players developing love for tennis

How popular is the sport of tennis among Xavier’s freshman class?
Head coach Laurie Martin reports that 84 players came out in the early days of practice, compared to approximately 60 in previous years.
Figuring that this year’s freshman class has approximately 320 students, it means that one fourth of the class is playing tennis.
The excitement and anticipation are due to the fact that Martin does not “cut’’ players. The no-cut policy helped her gain a handful of national awards in the 2014-15 school year.
Some players come in with experience while others do not. Teams will be broken down into a Blue and a White, with others playing against each other while developing their skills.
It is gratifying for Martin and her assistants, daughter Amanda Martin and Barb Chura, who also is the XCP varsity soccer coach.
“Very much so,’’ said Laurie Martin. “No matter the level where the girls start, it is rewarding to watch them grow. Ball placement, grip, topspin, just learning to compete . . . for many of them, this is probably the first situation where they have competed. Above all, you (as a coach) have to be patient.
“We want to expose them to what could become a lifetime sport, to have them improve and feel good about themselves.’’
Martin tries to keep parents informed about the team and players and outlines the season and what is expected of the players with a packet of information distributed to parents at an introductory meeting.
Xavier’s White team opens with three matches on the first three days of September. It will be matched against Chandler Basha on the road on Sept. 1, followed by a home match against Chandler High on Sept. 2 and then an intrasquad match of sorts against the Xavier Blue team on Sept. 3.
Laurie Martin was not sure about which players would be on which teams, but has a couple of girls who are likely to get the No. 1 spot on each – Emily Good and Kate Stegman.
Both girls have been playing for at least four years and already have noticed improvement during practices here.
“I’ve picked up more speed on my serves and shots,’’ Stegman said.
“I’m moving more and getting to the ball faster,’’ Good reported.
Another challenge for the players is learning to manage their time between playing and studying.
“It has been a little difficult at first because there is a little more homework,’’ Stegman said.
Good has readjusted quickly to tennis after a summer spent sailing with her family off San Diego’s Coronado Island. Stegman played a lot of tennis while vacationing with her family on the San Juan islands just off the coast of Seattle.
Good is interested in art, particularly painting, while Stegman enjoys keeping in shape through dance.
“I have enjoyed being at Xavier so far and all of us are looking forward to the season,’’ Good said.

Gators run, run and run some more

Xavier’s Gators are on the run again. And that’s not really good news for the other cross-country teams in Arizona’s Division I.
XCP won six straight state championships from 2007-12 and was runner-up the last two seasons.
Long-time coach Dave Van Sickle and his runners have been practicing since Aug. 11 and are excited about what this season could bring.
“We started to get ready for the cross-country season about two weeks after the state track meet (in Van Sickle’s running club) and we’ve been keeping it going ever since,’’ said Van Sickle, also the school’s head track and field coach.
That meant a very early wake-up call to allow the runners to get their work in starting around 5 a.m. before the desert heat kicked in.
Since that heat continues well into September and sometimes into October, dual meets between schools are close to extinction, with teams preferring to compete in bigger meets, most of which begin at mid-morning.
The Gators have five such meets this fall, including the season-opening run in the Peaks Invitational on Sept. 5 at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff. The event has a 9 a.m. start.
“First one out, it will be a fitness test for us with that altitude,’’ Van Sickle said of the 7,000-foot elevation.
The team’s workouts most of the summer concentrated on distance, and Van Sickle said the focus has begun to shift a bit to speed work heading into the initial meet.
The top four runners, in no particular order, are seniors Jane Miller, Tessa Weiss, Shannan Higgins and junior Sarah Carter.
Van Sickle calls Miller “an endurance animal’’ who can outlast just about anybody.
Weiss gained experience with middle-distance work during the track season and has strength as a sprinter. Higgins also improved through middle distances in track. The coach said they are “getting better and better.’’
The gem of the group could be Carter, who had a breakthrough season in track and is poised for a similar effort throughout the season.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gator golfers set record in opening match

Could Xavier’s 2015 golf team be better than the one that captured the school’s 32nd state title in 2014?
If Wednesday’s (Aug. 26) season-opening match was any indication, the answer might be yes.
The Gators, facing Phoenix Pinnacle, had a school team record for nine holes with a 131 at Phoenix Country Club, one shot better than the previous mark.
It was Xavier’s 205th straight win without a loss and put the team’s record at 427-25 since Coach Sr. Lynn Winsor took over the program in 1974. Winsor and co-coach Tui Selvaratnam were understandably overjoyed by Wednesday’s turn of events.
Four out of five individual scores count in a high school match and here are the scores over the par-36 course (nine holes): juniors Elizabeth Caldarelli and Emily Mahar at 31, senior Mikayla Fitzpatrick at 33, senior Alisa Snyder at 36 and junior Lily Worden at 38.