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.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Gators' Khalia Lanier is best of the best

Khalia Lanier’s telephone conversation is interrupted by a friend who wants some attention.
Lanier giggles as her new French bulldog, Olive, tries to nibble on her toes.
“She’s just trying to be friendly,’’ says Lanier, who got the dog at Christmas.
“I think this particular breed can be stubborn when you are trying to train them. I guess you have to remember that she’s still a puppy.’’
Lanier can remember being a young pup herself. She was trying to learn how to refine her ability in the sport of volleyball at Xavier College Preparatory.
It didn’t take long for her to unleash a power game that few people in Arizona had seen, and continued through all four of her years wearing XCP’s Royal Blue, Kelly Green and White. But she was more than just power. She also showed great agility, worked well along the back row and played strong defense.
The 6-foot-2 Lanier helped Xavier win a Division I state championship her sophomore year, runner-up finishes as a freshman and senior, and reached the semifinals as a junior.
She was The Arizona Republic/ Big School Player of the Year as a sophomore and again as a senior, and as a senior was selected as the Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. She also has been a member of several U.S. national teams, traveling and competing all over the globe.
On Sunday (June 5), she was all smiles again as the recipient of the Female Athlete of the Year award at the inaugural Arizona Sports Awards at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.
XCP golfer Alisa Snyder and Xavier tennis coach Laurie Martin also were honored.
For Lanier, it was a perfect conclusion to one of the more remarkable athletic careers in Arizona history. She will have a little bit more time to relax, watch Netflix and catch up on some of her favorite TV shows, then go to Los Angeles for what she hopes will be a productive stay at the University Southern California.
“Getting these awards has been really cool, but just as cool has been the support I have received from my family, my coaches, my teammates, my teachers and my friends,’’ Lanier said.
USC has given her a training program to follow in preparation for the upcoming season this fall. She will travel to LA at the end of June and begin work at the school in early July. She plans to study human biology and hopes that can lead to a career as an orthopedic surgeon.
“I am looking forward to the culture there and the career opportunities,’’ Lanier said.
“As far as getting ready for volleyball goes, I have been working out every day, so I think I should be OK (conditioning). I’ve never done much (weight) lifting before. My friends say, “Khalia, your arms are so cut,’ but I really don’t have much arm strength. I will also have to do more squats so my legs can get stronger, have good form and stuff.’’
She has had many memorable moments at Xavier, such as the day she took home the Gatorade award. There was a ceremony at school and her parents were on hand. Video was taken of the celebrations, and she watches it often.
“There are a lot of special people that I love who have been a part of my life,’’ she said.
The Xavier moments included the last day of school and a dance party at Founders Hall, the Xavier-Brophy activities and all of the friendships in classes and on the volleyball court. She also developed strong friendships with teammates on her club teams.
Of winning the Female Athlete of the Year award, Lanier said, “It’s hard for me to express things sometimes, but it is a great honor and it is a special time for Xavier to get credit for having helped me and how important it is in the lives of young women.’’

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