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.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Xavier runners put on impressive performance

School was out on Friday (Oct. 14) for Xavier Prep’s cross-country runners and their fellow students.
The Gators celebrated their break by frolicking to a strong victory in the Big School Varsity Division at the 3rd Annual Titan Invitational at Crossroads Park in Gilbert.
Xavier had 18 points, a difference of 60 between it and second-place Gilbert Perry. Queen Creek was third at 107, Phoenix Desert Vista fourth at 127 and Tempe Corona del Sol fifth at 144.
The Gators had finishers 2, 3, 4, 5, 9 and 11, quite an accomplishment, and set themselves up for similar efforts in the Division I, Section II meet, a prelude to state competition, and the state meet itself.
With a trophy almost as tall as they are, Xavier runners celebrate after winning the title in the Titan Invitational on Friday.
 “What did I take away from this? It’s the fact that all the girls are improving,’’ said long-time XCP coach Dave Van Sickle.  “We had a couple of girls today who had big improvements from their last meet.’’
The most prominent time differential was by sophomore Helen Innes, who finished third behind junior teammate Caroline McClelland. Scottsdale Desert Mountain’s Stephanie Stewart was the winner.
According to Van Sickle, Innes had finished about 30 seconds behind McClelland in a recent event, and was just one second behind in the Titan. McClelland was timed in 19:01.00 for the 5K event, Innes at 19:02.00.
Freshman Mia Olsen was fourth at 19:13.00 and junior Kate Straneva was fifth at 19:49.00. Senior M.J. O’Gara was ninth at 20:12.00 and sophomore Karina Smith was 11th at 20:18.00.
Xavier finishes its regular season on Oct. 22 with the Mt. SAC Invitational at Rose Mofford Park in north Phoenix. The Section II meet will be on Oct. 28 at the same location, and the state meet will be held at its usual location, the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix, on Nov. 5.
The status of senior Sarah Carter is uncertain for the Gators, as she nurses an ankle injury.
“We have worked hard this season and we want to make a good showing in these next meets,’’ Van Sickle said.
Desert Vista is the main school that could stand in the way of a Xavier title (the Gators finished second to Chandler High a year ago). Desert Vista sat some of its top runners at the Titan, but Van Sickle and his athletes are looking forward to the challenge.
“You never know what can happen,’’ he said.
Xavier also did well in the Big School Open Division at the Titan.
Gator sophomore Karina Hawkins won the event at 20:50.00. Senior Pamela Ebenroth was fourth at 21:56.0 and junior Abbie Conrad was sixth at 22:16.0. Sophomore Katherine Thomas was 15th at 23:17.50, sophomore Natalia Hiler was 28th at 24:24.0, sophomore Josie Venezia was 33rd at 24:41.00 and sophomore Arden Smith was 41st at 25:10.00.
Van Sickle said Hawkins’ effort and those of her teammates “were signs of good things to come.’’

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