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, September 30, 2017

Xavier runners bask in the Desert Twilight

Xavier Prep’s cross-country team put itself in position to challenge for the Division I state championship with a strong showing in Friday’s (Sept. 29) Desert Twilight Invite at the Grande Sports World complex in Casa Grande.

Races were 5K and featured several divisions. Xavier runners were scattered throughout these categories. Some of the earlier races began in the afternoon, and the rest began after sunset.

Xavier finished fourth in the inaugural Sole Sports Sweepstakes division. The Gators had 186 points, with Chandler High capturing the top spot with118.

Xavier won the Large-School Open division with 46 points, just one point ahead of Lake Braddock, Va.

Two of the divisions were won by Gator runners.

Junior Karina Hawkins won the Large-School Open and Joey Hernandez won the Large-School Freshman.

Junior Karina Smith finished third in the Large-School Open. Nine more XCP girls competed in that division.

Sophomore Kristen Keeble was eighth, followed by sophomore Grace Valandra (15th), junior Karli Baker (19th), senior Abbie Conrad (24th), senior Annika Nielson (25th), sophomore Kaitlyn Lauck (82nd), junior Megan Woodbury (100th), junior Arden Smith (184th) and sophomore Hannah Phillippi (191st).

Following Hernandez in the Large-School Freshman were Rishita Shah (42nd), Caroline Calihan (62nd) and Emma Chester (109th).

Freshman Jamie Stelnik had a noteworthy effort in the Championship division, finishing fifth.

Xavier runners in the Sweepstakes division:

Sophomore Mia Olsen (30th), freshman Cami Merickel (39th), senior Kate Straneva (53rd), junior Helen Innes (55th), senior Caroline McClelland (56th), senior Caroline Liddy (57th) and freshman Sammy Braun (64th).

Xavier next runs in the Thunderbird Invitational on Oct. 7 at Mountain View Park in Phoenix.

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