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, May 30, 2016

Snyder set to tap in on last hole for Xavier

For Alisa Snyder, it doesn’t get any better than this.
After winning the state Division I individual golf championship and helping Xavier Prep win the 33rd team title in school history, Snyder will be honored as the state Girls Golfer of the Year on Sunday (June 5) at the Arizona Sports Awards ceremony. The event will be held at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.
“Golf is my favorite season,’’ said Snyder, a recent XCP graduate who will be studying and playing golf at the University of Michigan. “Xavier has been a great atmosphere for that. You’re always competing and you want to play well. All of us on the team are good friends and we push each other and support each other.’’
Snyder received plenty of support from them in the last few holes of the decisive second day of the state tournament last fall.
She remembers being on the fairway of the 17th hole of the Aguila Golf Course in Laveen when play was stopped for nearly 30 minutes because of weather conditions.
“When we were ready to go back out, I was thinking about whether I should try for a birdie,’’ the left-handed-hitting Snyder said. “I talked to the coaches and they said if I tried it and missed, it could penalize me (score), where if I could make par on the last two holes, it might be good. So that’s what I did. I played it safe. It was a great feeling to play well like that and help us win as a team.’’

Alisa Snyder won the Division I golf championship and helped Xavier win the 33rd state title in school history.

Snyder played all four years at Xavier, along with Mikayla Fitzpatrick. The two became good friends and finished off their representation of XCP by playing as teammates at the recent United States Golf Association Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship in Florida.
“It was a great experience. It was nice to play one last time with Mikayla,’’ Snyder said. “The course was amazing. It was very long, but it was in wonderful shape. The weather was more humid than Arizona.’’
Snyder will have orientation and register for classes at Michigan in July and begin school in August.
She said golf will be both in the fall and spring, but that actual NCAA competition is in the spring.
Relying on the things she learned at Xavier will help her make the adjustment to college.
“Xavier is a great school for young women,’’ she said. “You learn so much and the community is part of one big family. The academics and athletics are really strong.’’
And Snyder will continue to maintain contact with Fitzpatrick, who will be studying and playing golf at Xavier in Cincinnati.
“The two schools are not too far apart,’’ Snyder said. “I think we figured out that we could drive about 2 ½ hours each and meet halfway.’’
She looks back on what she accomplished at Xavier with a sense of pride.
She thought of all the good golfers who preceded her, “who have done it before, and I wanted to be like them. I started the season in the No. 4 spot on the team and I think there were some people who might have said, “Oh, she’s No. 4. She probably won’t go too far.’ That only motivated me, made me work harder.’’

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Xavier softball players honored for excellence

Two Xavier Prep softball players were recognized for their efforts in 2016 with Sunday’s (May 29) release of The Arizona Republic/ All-Arizona and All-Division teams.
Senior center fielder Megan Donahey was named to the All-Division I team and senior pitcher-first baseman Caitlyn Dickman was listed as a Division I Honorable Mention selection.
Donahey, normally No. 2 in coach Carrie Markham’s batting order, hit .558 with 48 hits, 22 RBIs and 34 runs scored. She also stole 14 bases.
As a pitcher, Dickman was 11-1 with one save and 55 strikeouts in 87 innings. She also had a solid .424 batting average with 36 hits, 28 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
These two players, along with senior shortstop Becky Ducar, have been selected to participate in the annual Division I All-Star Game on June 8 at Gilbert Campo Verde.
Congrats to these girls and their teammates for a great season !!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Gators' Lanier to be on Arizona's big stage

Khalia Lanier has played volleyball on some of the biggest stages in the world and collected numerous awards, but it all seems to circle back to another stage in her home state of Arizona.
On June 5, the senior who recently graduated from Xavier Prep, will be on the stage at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix as one of three finalists for the Female Athlete of the Year award at’s inaugural Arizona Sports Awards program.
The 6-foot-2 Lanier, who is headed for a college volleyball career at USC, will be joined by Rio Rico cross-country runner Allie Schadler and Scottsdale Chaparral swimmer Taylor Ruck.

Xavier volleyball star Khalia Lanier is up for Female Athlete of the Year at's Arizona Sports Awards on June 5.

Another recent Xavier graduate, Alisa Snyder, will be honored at the event as the reigning Golf Player of the Year after she won the Division I individual championship and led the Gators to the 33rd state title in school history.
Lanier was the Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year last fall. And she is the recipient of two Arizona Republic/ Big School Volleyball Player of the Year awards, as a sophomore in 2013 and again as a senior in 2015.
Xavier was the Division I state runner-up in 2012 and again in 2015, won it all in 2013 and reached the semifinals in 2014. Not a bad run for Lanier and her Gator teammates.
The awards will be handed out in a similar fashion as the annual “ESPY’’ awards. Athletes from all over the state will be honored.
“It really sounds amazing,’’ Lanier said. “It’s always an honor for others to recognize your hard work.’’

Robotics activity to be buzzing before you know it

All is quiet in Xavier Prep’s new robotics lab as the school year comes to a close.
Quiet for now.
But it won’t be long before all the equipment is up and running again on the southeast part of campus when the 2016-17 school year arrives.
Under the guidance of faculty member Nathan Ward, Xavier finished its first season in 17th place in the Arizona FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). The Gators did not compete in the Arizona Interscholastic Association tournament this year, but plan to do so next year.
Ward said the first year of the Robotics Club as well as classes in the endeavor went well. The club features 12-15 students and the class has 8 to 10.
The lab previously was a storage area that was converted to robotics before the start of 2015-16, complete with air conditioning and plenty of electrical outlets.
From the first week of school to the last, the girls are busy. There is one class, and the club meets twice a week in the afternoon after school.
The lab holds a lot of equipment – “no space goes to waste,’’ Ward said. There are plans to move some of the saws to a patio area just outside the door. Ward said Phoenix Tent and Awning will construct an awning to cover the outside area for protection against the elements and have the saws not create nearly as much dust in the lab itself.
“A lot of our equipment is on wheels,’’ Ward said.
The XCP robotics community also received a grant of $5,000 from the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of the Diamondbacks School Challenge. A banner hangs on the wall and most of the funds were used for a laser cutter and 16 soldering stations.
The AIA uses the VEX IQ robotic system in which the robots are constructed from kits. The FTC offers a bit more freedom with its robots and the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) features the larger robots that can weigh up to 120 pounds.
“With the FTC, you’re working pretty much with a “blank canvas,’ and the girls seem to like that because they can essentially start from scratch,’’ Ward said.
Ward attended some educational seminars last summer at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and is going back for another round this year.
“It was all brand new last year,’’ Ward said. “It was a good gauge of what to do (in regard to education and competition). The first day, I wasn’t sure, but then in the second day, the light kind of came on and I figured things out. Now it’s a matter of filling in some holes. Carnegie Mellon is not about building robots, it’s about programming robots.’’
Most of the students who worked with Ward in 2015-16 will be back again next year.
“I think all of the kids had a lot of fun, and Sr. Joan (Fitzgerald, Principal) was very supportive,’’ Ward said. “Next year, we are going to have some awards where the participants get an “X’ letter, just like people get letters in athletics. We think things will be better next year, and by the third year, that’s when you really take stock in how you are doing.’’

Rankin ready to lead XCP swimmers, divers

It doesn’t seem that long ago when Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin was swimming for the University of Arizona (1988-92).
In the years since, the Portland, Ore., native has remained in Arizona as a coach for the Phoenix Swim Club, a circulation and marketing manager for Swimming World magazine, and now adds head-coaching duties at Xavier Prep to her list. She also is an age group swimming chair for Arizona Swimming, the governing body of swimming in Arizona,
Hired by the Gators in November, Rankin, a mother of two, has met a few times with her new team and is ready to go. Tryouts are the first week of August, with practice officially beginning on Aug. 12.

New Xavier swim-dive coach Maureen "Mo'' Rankin.
“I coached a lot of swimmers from Xavier and Brophy (Prep), so I am familiar with those programs,’’ Rankin said.
Captains for the fall already have been selected and a representative from each of the four classes also will figure into the mix. Rankin will be assisted by Jennifer James, who is back for another year.
Rankin said that Arizona Swimming has been very supportive of her goal to coach at Xavier.
“It is important to keep the traditions at Xavier. They have had a strong program for a long time,’’ Rankin said.
It’s a program that figures to get stronger with the infusion of a talented freshman class.
Rankin said she told her new team “to focus on what you are doing with your club teams and with your training.’’
In other words, spots aren’t completely assured. They seldom are simply handed out.
A distance swimmer in college, she continues to get in the water as she competes in the U.S. Masters program.
She wants to see what her XCP swimmers can do.
“It also is important to be versatile in different things (events),’’ she said. “You never know where you will be able to make an impact.
“Above all, the most important thing is to make it fun.’’