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 29, 2018

Twilight is good time to run for Xavier girls

Xavier Prep’s outstanding cross-country runners were among hundreds of athletes participating on Friday (Sept. 28) evening in the annual Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival at the Casa Grande Sports World facility.

Xavier had 22 finishers in three divisions – the Sole Sports Sweepstakes, the Large School Open and the Big School Freshman.

The first finisher for Xavier in the Sweepstakes race (all events were 5,000 meters) was junior Mia Olsen, who in the 23rd spot out of about 150 runners with a time of 18 minutes and 9 seconds.

Other Sweepstakes spots for Xavier runners: sophomore Jamie Stelnik, 32nd, 18:16; sophomore Sammy Braun, 55th, 18:55; senior Karina Hawkins, 66th, 19:02; senior Karina Smith, 86th, 19:43; senior Karli Baker, 87th, 19:43; senior Helen Innes, 96th, 19:48; and junior Grace Valandra, 97th, 19:48.

Four Xavier runners were in the Large School Open Division. They were senior Josie Vanezia, 13th, 21:13; senior Johnnie Mitchell, 20th, 21:30; senior Megan Woodbury, 79th, 23:30; and sophomore Rishita Shah, 103rd, 24:04.

Xavier had eight runners finish in the top 100 in the Big School Freshman Division, a very good sign for the Gators’ future.

They were Ansley Burns, 5th, 21:33; Maria Benitez, 12th, 22:22; Ellie Higgins, 17th, 22:49; Karime Morales, 31st, 23:30; Hannah Wheeling, 41st, 24:23; Erika Germinario, 55th, 25:18; Catherine Devine, 56th, 25:23; MK Fairbanks, 57th, 25:30; Briony Campisi, 79th, 26:41; and Lulu Fischer, 96th, 27:21.

The Gators are scheduled to run in two events on Saturday (Oct. 6), the Thunderbird Invitational at Mountain View Park in north Phoenix, and the Asics Clovis Invitational in Woodward Park, Calif.

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