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

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.’’

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