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 28, 2019

Runners weave through plenty of Twilight traffic

It was called the Nike Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival.

A festival, indeed.

Nearly 5,000 runners – 1,951 girls and 2,931 boys – swarmed the Sports World athletic complex in Casa Grande on Friday afternoon and evening (Sept. 27).

Xavier Prep had 32 runners compete in three of the eight girls’ races. Boys had the same number of races.
Xavier finished 10th in the top-level 5,000-meter Sweepstakes (all races were the same distance), first in the Large School Freshman and fourth in the Large School Open.

The Gators had seven runners in the Sweepstakes, led by senior Mia Olsen with a time of 18:30.15, good for 33rd place.

Other Xavier runners: junior Jamie Stelnik, 18:38.90 (37th), sophomore Ansley Burns, 19:03.19 (63rd), senior Jessica Mirmelli, 19:08.26 (70th), freshman Holland Carey, 19:47.80 (104th), sophomore Maria Benitez, 19:54.02 (109th), and senior Grace Valandra, 20:29.48 (139th).

The Gators had two runners in the top 10 in the Large School Freshman race.

They were Kylie Brown, 20:38.50 (seventh) and Naomi Young, 20:47.00 (eighth).

The remaining eight finishers for Xavier were Emily Manuelito, 21.18.10 (13th), Olivia Charles, 22:06.00 (17th), Barbara Paez, 22:07.30 (18th), Cassara Ryan, 22:24.30 (23rd), Calista Flick, 22:51.00 (29th), Grace McClelland, 23:51.50 (62nd), Bella Titus, 26:15.00 (70th), and Alma Melendez, 26:53.90 (81st).

Xavier had its largest representation – 15 runners – in the Large School Open.

The top finishers were junior Sammy Braun, 20:50.10 (18th) and sophomore Tatum Goforth, 20:50.50 (19th).

Sophomore Hannah Wheeling was next, 21.44.30 (42nd), followed by sophomore Karime Morales, 21:50.00 (47th), junior Rishita Shah, 22:00.10 (55th), sophomore Catherine Alaimo, 22:18.00 (64th), sophomore Ellie Higgins, 22:21.10 (67th) and sophomore Briony Campisi, 23:00.80 (93rd).

Also, sophomore Catherine Devine, 23:07.70 (100th), sophomore MK Fairbanks, 23:08.70 (102nd), sophomore Riley Ryan, 23:09.20 (104th), sophomore Grace Teevan, 23:23.00 (118th), sophomore Marissa Mansour, 24:05.20 (158th), sophomore Lulu Fischer, 24:11.80 (166th) and sophomore Maia Weingard, 25:41.00 (247th).

The Gators will lace up their shoes again on Oct. 5 when they compete in the Thunderbird Invitational at Mountain View Park in north Phoenix.

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