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

State champ Carter heads list of run returnees

It isn’t easy catching up with a cross-country runner. They rarely stand in one place for too long.
However, the XCP Files recently cornered four of Xavier Prep’s top runners at the team’s annual photo shoot in the school’s courtyard. They played important roles in the Gators’ second-place finish at state.
Here is a quick look at the top four . . .

Sarah Carter
After winning the Division I state individual championship as a junior, it might be hard to believe that Carter has shown improvement entering her final XCP season. But here she is, ready to go.
She has returned to form after being limited by a leg injury during the spring track season. She has done it over the last few months with a diligent workout regimen that includes lifting weights.
“I think I am really a lot stronger,’’ she said. “It (lifting weights) definitely does help you if you are willing to work, and I did that. My core and my upper body are healthy and I have upped my mileage.’’
Carter also increased her lung capacity with some training at the higher altitude in Colorado over the summer.
She admitted that the track season “didn’t go how I wanted,’’ so this will be a motivation. She also is willing to take on a leadership role.
It doesn’t seem that long ago when Carter was just starting her journey at Xavier as a freshman.
“Time has flown by,’’ she said.
She hopes to continue to run in college. She has visited a few places and likely will do more.
“But I don’t want to make a rush decision,’’ she said.
The only thing she wants to rush is the final few hundred yards at the state meet.

Caroline Liddy
As a sophomore last season, Liddy finished 11th at state and figures to raise her level this fall.
“Things are going pretty well, I think,’’ she said. “You have to trust in the process, make sure you come to practice and eat healthy and you should be able to have a good season.’’
She agrees with Carter on the notion that increased weight training will help.
“It improves the abs (abdominals) and will help you make a push on that third mile of your races,’’ she said.
Liddy developed an interest in running as a middle-school student. She also enjoyed competing as a swimmer.
“I would run in the mornings and swim after school,’’ she said. “I found that I was a better runner than a swimmer. Running always seemed to come easier to me.’’
Much of the time, Liddy’s race strategy is dictated by the course.
“But no matter the course, you have to be ready for every single race,’’ she said. “I don’t always go too hard at first, just save myself for a good energy kick at the end.’’

Helen Innes
Competing as a runner is simple. That’s why the sophomore enjoys it so much.
“I love how you can run with your friends,’’ said Innes, who finished 28th a year ago. “It’s easy to put on your running shoes and get going.
“At Xavier, we are a close community. We pray together and we run together.’’
Part of the camaraderie involves running on Saturdays, going to breakfast afterward “and talk about running and other things. We have a good time.’’
A solid freshman season has helped her become more mentally prepared, “and now I know what to expect.’’

Caroline McClelland
The junior finished 32nd last season. She has been preparing for cross-country season since May, “and we are ready to start to show that all of our hard work pays off,’’ she said.
Of the Gators as a team, she said, “You can just tell that our times are going to be better.’’
McClelland said that the team is looking forward to the start of the season on Friday (Sept. 9), when it competes in the Desert Solstice event at the Crooked Tree Golf Course in Marana, just outside Tucson.
Xavier’s finish at state last year and a strong effort in the Nike National meet at Portland, Ore., in December, will provide motivation for the Gators.
“We want to do it again,’’ she said.

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