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, September 4, 2016

Cross country "can accomplish a lot of things'

“We realize that the sky’s the limit.’’
Now coach Dave Van Sickle and his Xavier Prep cross-country team will hit the trail and try to show everyone how it is done in 2016.
“If we work hard and keep an open mind, we can accomplish a lot of things,’’ Van Sickle said.
A year ago, the Gators were in the middle of the Division I pack for most of the season.
“Nobody really talked about us,’’ he said.
But Xavier opened a lot of eyes at the state championship race and finished second, just five points behind state-champion Chandler High.
This time, there probably won’t be many surprises.
“Now we’re probably going to be the hunted rather than the hunter,’’ Van Sickle said.  “But that’s OK. We feel great about our chances. We’re in really good shape.
“We have shown a lot of improvement. Our top kids should be faster, and we’ve had another year of training.’’
The Gators have added more weights to the workout plan, and many of the runners “have a stronger core,’’ according to Van Sickle.
“You can tell that our overall strength is better. You look at their posture when they run. It’s more straight up and down than slumped over. We just need to keep that going. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.’’
Start the individual parade with senior Sarah Carter. She outdistanced the pack and captured the state individual title.
Xavier has four of its top seven finishers returning – Carter, junior Caroline Liddy (11th), sophomore Helen Innes (28th) and junior Caroline McClelland (32nd).
XCP has quite a few young runners this season, many of whom who could improve to the point of making an impact when it counts the most.
“We have 10 or 12 kids who could potentially be among our top seven,’’ Van Sickle said.
In addition, the Gators participated in the annual Nike national meet in Portland, Ore., and finished strong, slotted at No. 21 among 25,000 schools across the country.
Xavier begins its 2016 season on Friday (Sept. 9) with the Desert Solstice event at the Crooked Tree Golf Course in Marana. It is an early evening event, similar to the Desert Twilight that will be run a few weeks later in Casa Grande.
In between the Solstice and the Twilight is the annual Doug Conley Invitational, which is held at the Shalimar Golf Course in Tempe.

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