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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Gators honored for academic excellence in spring

The Sports 360AZ media outlet has announced its All-Academic Spring Sports Teams for Arizona, and Xavier Prep athletes figure prominently.

The XCP softball team had all 15 of its players recognized, while the tennis program had four players on the girls’ tennis list.

The honorees (GPA in parentheses – W=weighted, U=unweighted):


First team

Sophomore Bridget Donahey (4.33 W), freshman Grace Lobocki (4.29 W), senior Katie Donahey (4.28 W), sophomore Meghan Schouten (4.28, W), junior Sydney Johnson (4.28 W), sophomore Riley Flynn (4.2 W), senior Cameron Martin (4.11 W), junior Macy Lee (4.00 W).

Honorable mention

 Freshman Izzy Hycnar (3.86 W), freshman Zoe Zowine (3.85 U), freshman Berdina Riggs (3.64 W), junior Jazmin Andrade (3.59 W), sophomore Elliot Smith (3.75 U). junior Lina Vanderwey (3.34 U), senior Victoria Delgado (3.22 U).


First team

Senior Erica Stutz (4.534 W), senior Lorelei Glidden (4.4 W), senior Emily Even (4.3 W), senior Mackenzie Virden (4.29 W).

Congratulations to all of these great Gators !!

XCP athletes celebrate signing national letters

One of the perks of being a senior athlete at Xavier Prep is that when they go on to sign a letter of intent to participate in sports at colleges and universities, Xavier makes a big day of it with a fun signing ceremony.

The 2020 celebration appeared to be in jeopardy when the Covid 19 virus invaded the country and the world.

But Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor and her administrative staff were determined to honor their athletes.

After approval by the Diocese of Phoenix, the ceremony recently was held on campus.

Athletes were allowed to bring memorabilia for their new school to signify the rite of passage, and those items were set up on  a table draped with the Xavier logo as well as a sign listing their name and college. Mothers and fathers and siblings also were on hand to provide support.

All wore protective masks, including family and Xavier staff, and a few of the athletes brought laptop computers along so some of their Xavier teammates could watch.

The latest Fab Five: Tanya Barakat (lacrosse), Danae Bravo (golf), Samantha Cardinal (target shooting), Jaala James (lacrosse) and Erica Stutz (tennis).

Tanya Barakat

Tanya Barakat will go to college on a lacrosse scholarship, but she also is a good basketball player. (Photos by Don Ketchum).
Barakat will be off to Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. It is near a spot where some of her relatives reside, so she won’t feel so isolated. She certainly has had enough of that quarantining over the last month or so.

She played basketball (forward) for the Gators, then slid right into lacrosse to continue her development as one of the area’s most promising goalies.

Xavier lost its first two games, then won three in a row to build a 3-2 record and served notice that it would be making a strong bid for a spot in the state tournament. But the season came to a screeching halt.

“I was devastated. All of us were,’’ Barakat said. “I thought about the Senior Night they had for the season last year and now this year’s seniors wouldn’t get that. And of course we were playing some pretty good lacrosse this season.’’

Barakat knows all about what warm is like. Soon she will have to have help and pack a few extra sweaters.

Danae Bravo

Xavier golfer Danae Bravo is headed to Marymount (Calif.) University.

There aren’t too many who follow prep sports in Arizona that don’t know about the legacy of the Xavier golf program.

Bravo has been happy to be a part of a legacy that has opened the door for 36 state championships, all coached by Winsor with assistance in recent years from Tui Selvaratnam, Xavier’s Associate Athletic Director and Co-Head Coach of the golf program.

Next on Bravo’s agenda is a new golf chapter at Marymount California University in Rancho Palos Verdes. She wants to become a pathologist, analyzing diseases and how the body reacts. Certainly good timing on that one.

“I think being a part of Xavier’s tradition has helped to give me confidence and hopefully that will continue,’’ Bravo said. “We have been able to build friendships and bonds that will last forever. It is really special.’’

Winsor said that Bravo “has been an important part of our program for the last four years. We couldn’t be more proud of her. We are looking forward to see her continue to grow at Loyola Marymount.’’

A side benefit for Bravo will be that she will be closer to Disneyland, one of her favorite places.

“Anything Disneyland, she knows, including a lot of things other people don’t know,’’ Winsor said.

Samantha Cardinal

Top-level shooter Samantha Cardinal is right on target with her choice of Simpson (Iowa).
Cardinal recently decided to attend Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. It came after a visit to the campus a few weeks ago,

“We flew there with our masks on,’’ she said.

She became familiar with Simpson when contacted by team officials at a national shooting tournament.

She also was introduced to a few current players, “and it all had a good, comfortable feeling to it,’’ she said. “The campus is very beautiful, almost like a mini Ivy League school.’’

Cardinal has been a member of the Xavier Hotshots program (both shooting and archery) and has participated in crew, swimming and the latest, E-sports, along the way.

She will be pursuing a degree in Computer Information Systems.

Jaala James

Lacrosse's Jaala James is ready to show people how it's done for Howard University.
James was searching her computer for a possible collegiate landing spot when she locked in on Howard University in Washington, D.C.

“I saw that they didn’t have a full roster and I thought, “Hmmm, maybe I could play for them,’ ’’ she said. “I got in contact with their coaches and they said to send a video, and I did. I am glad that I did and I am looking forward to going there.’’

She has been a defensive player for most of her career, but she said the Howard coaches think she might have the athleticism to play as a midfielder, which roams more of the field.

“I’ve never really played that much before, but I am certainly willing to give it a try,’’ she said.

She admits she still likes defense, too.

Erica Stutz

Several of Erica Stutz's Xavier tennis teammates got a close look at her signing with Swarthmore.
Stutz put her laptop on the table and looked at the screen, with several of her Xavier teammates tuning in. 

All of them would like to have helped Xavier win a second straight Division I championship and 18th overall, but they still can enjoy the one from 2019.

Stutz will be headed to Swarthmore in Pennsylvania, where she will study bioengineering.

Her academic achievements will be an asset. She took five Advance Placement classes during the school year.

“It’s too bad we had to stop the season,’’ Stutz said.

“We all wanted to keep playing, but I guess I can say I was enjoying the quarantine and spending time with my parents.’’

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Xavier's Flynn joins elite national softball list

More recognition for the Xavier Prep softball program has surfaced with the selection of pitcher Riley Flynn as the No. 311 player in the nation for the Class of 2022 by the Extra Innings Softball media outlet.

Selections were made primarily for players’ freshman seasons, but Flynn was well on her way to a stellar sophomore campaign in 2020 before the world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 virus.

As a freshman, Flynn helped Xavier reach the 6A Conference state tournament with a 17-3 record while hitting .437.

In 2020, she was 8-1 in the team’s first nine games, striking out 69 batters in 52 1/3 innings with an earned run average of 0.91. In what would be her final two games of the season during the first week of March, she pitched back-to-back two-hit shutouts over Glendale Mountain Ridge and Mesa Red Mountain.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Softball group honors Gators' Bridget Donahey

Xavier Prep sophomore softball standout Bridget Donahey has been named the No. 12 player in the nation for high school graduation year 2022 by the Extra Innings Softball media outlet.

The statistics on which her selection was based are from her freshman year in 2018-19, including a .581 batting average with a team-high 43 hits, 36 RBIs, 13 home runs and 13 doubles.

Donahey is listed as a third baseman and catcher, but she has played mainly shortstop for the Gators.

She played in only four games in Xavier’s abbreviated nine-game spring season in 2020, before being sidelined with an injury to her forearm. She had four hits with 5 RBIs and a double. Had the season resumed, she almost certainly would have returned to the field.

Despite Donahey’s youth, college programs already were in strong pursuit for Donahey, and she has made a commitment to Northwestern University in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Light shines bright for Xavier v-ball setter

Pride, effort and encouragement have sprouted again at Xavier Prep to give Gator Nation an emotional boost during a trying time.

It comes from the news that sophomore Alexa Shiner has been selected to the High Honorable Mention list of top sophs across the nation by

The 5-foot-8 Shiner was the Gators’ top setter in 2019 and put up some noteworthy numbers: 1,253 assists, 260 digs and 51 aces. She also was named the team’s Most Improved Player.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant was happy when she learned of Shiner’s honor.

“As a freshman, she was the JV setter and came in the gym her sophomore season with a different focus and commitment to the game,’’ Bryant said, adding that “Alexa stayed composed and rose to the occasion all season.’’

Shiner began this spring as a member of Xavier’s outstanding beach volleyball team and is expected to help lead the Gators’ indoor team this fall.

Congratulations, Alexa!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Mr. Mike has been the glue for XCP athletics

The world health scare that affects us all has rendered the Xavier Prep campus to sit in an eerie silence these days.

There are no students – they are all at home, studying and interacting remotely via computers and other electronic devices.

One of the main casualties has been athletics. No games or practices for the rest of the school year. All of the facilities have been cleaned and disinfected by XCP’s great maintenance staff.

But if you listen very closely and use your imagination, you might just hear voices on the walkie-talkie radios crackling in the breeze.

For nearly four decades at Xavier, one of the familiar voices and an even more familiar face belongs to Mike Williams, the school’s security guru for just about anything you could name, with a particular emphasis on sports.

He will be retiring at the end of June. He is in a similar situation as the graduating seniors, having their last few months here unfortunately cut short.

But at least we can sit back and remember with a smile the job done by the man affectionately referred to as “Mr. Mike’’ by XCP Vice-Principal and Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.
Xavier Prep security man deluxe Mike Williams (Photo by Don Ketchum).
During the day, Mike’s is the first face you see when you drive through the main gate on Seventh Street. He exits the small guard shack, recognizes faculty and staff and waves them through. Those he doesn’t know must stop and state their reason for coming in. He gives their vehicle the once-over, scribbles their license plate on a sheet that is attached to his clipboard and tells them where to park.

“He is the face of Xavier. Parents, students, staff, everyone knows Mr. Mike,’’ Winsor said. “He also is the face of Xavier athletics. He leads the teams and referees to their locker rooms (in the Activity Center). He has been invaluable for us. And his primary concern is the safety of our girls.’’

Williams also assists with non-athletic events, and a few years ago chronicled some student artwork with photographs in the Stark Gallery in the hopes of putting together a scrapbook.

At athletic events, he closely watches to make sure no one brings anything other than water into the gym.

And when there are games at Petznick Field, he shows where opposing team buses are to park, hands out rosters, chases down a few foul balls (softball) and keeps an eye out for something that he might consider to be irregular.

I probably fell into that irregular category back in the days when I covered sports for The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette and the Arizona Interscholastic Association. Whenever I would report on an event at Xavier, the first few times, I was a stranger. But he would greet me at the door and often set up a chair near the scorer’s table. The respect he showed me was one of the reasons why I came to Xavier and why I have been here for six years.

Williams attended St. Francis Elementary in Phoenix as well as neighboring Brophy Prep before going on to the University of Arizona and later Grand Canyon University.

He was a volunteer baseball coach at Brophy for a few years, then volunteered as a coach at Xavier before Sr. Lynn brought him on full-time in the mid-1980s.

“I think he really loves Xavier. If he didn’t, he never would have stayed this long,’’ Winsor said.

Williams sometimes works 15-hour days. By the time he returns home after an athletic event, it is understandable that he is tired. Who wouldn’t be?

Soon, his routine will change in a big way.

“I know the time is right,’’ he said.

His agenda likely won’t involve much sitting around, however.

A Phoenix native whose father was a horseman, Williams plans to go for walks along some nearby bridle paths, do some bike riding, as well as test his keen eye by firing arrows at archery bales set up in his back yard or maybe go to a shooting range. He also plans to get a rescue dog (he is hopeful to get a yellow Labrador retriever) and already is considering a name -- Murphy.

And he probably will run into Xavier alumni in some of the stores near his home. He acknowledged that some might not always agree or have agreed with his disciplinary tone, but it all is/was in the Xavier cause.

“I tell the students that I knew some of their parents and even some of their grandparents,’’ he said.

“Some of the kids along the way have looked at me like I was from outer space. But I think they know now that what I was telling them was for their own good.’’

Staffers sometimes can be included.

One was riding a razor scooter when Williams told her it was not a good idea. She tried it again on a different day and went past where he usually is stationed, thinking she was home free because he was not there. Or so she thought. But he came around the corner and wagged his finger at her.

“Busted,’’ she said with a laugh.

For many years, Williams would wear a nice jacket, tie and shoes while working events, but this year being the last, he relaxed that approach while wearing an Xavier logo shirt, khakis and tennis shoes.

And the ID badge.

“Whenever you see the badge, you know I’m working,’’ he said.

“I might always be working in some ways, maybe thinking about it. Someone suggested putting up big cardboard (photo) cutouts of me in the gym next year.’’

He said he will miss interacting with students, faculty and staff.

“They have been a big part of my life,’’ he said.

And he has been a big part of theirs.

“With all of the jobs he has done, he will be sorely missed,’’ Winsor said.

So, Xavier nation, if you ever happen to run across Williams during some of your jaunts around town, tell him how much you have appreciated him.

It will make him feel good. You, too.

Godspeed, Mr. Mike.