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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Xavier Hotshots are exactly what name says

The week of July 11-18 proved to be especially fruitful for members of the Xavier Hotshots Shotgun Team (club) as it participated in the SCTP (Scholastic Clay Target Program) National Virtual Competition at the Ben Avery Clay Target Center in north Phoenix.

Twelve athletes comprised the Xavier contingent, ranging from recently graduated seniors (2020) to upcoming sophomores, juniors and seniors (2020-21).

The event, which featured clubs from across the country, was coordinated by the Arizona Game & Fish Department, which made certain that all the participants were following state protocols for practicing safe distancing and face masks when appropriate.

Xavier Head Coach Brian Trapp said he was proud of the team’s performance as well as how the girls handled themselves in regard to the health concerns.

Perhaps the top shooter for the Gators was recent graduate Megan Olson, one of the team captains in the last school year.

Competing in the American Skeet event, Olson took second place for the Ladies Senior Varsity, and her score of 192 out of 200 was the 13th best score for all of the 230 athletes.

In that same event, Olson, graduate Jessie Silverstein and senior-to-be Jaden Billeter finished fifth of 32 teams.

Those three shooters combined for another strong finish in Skeet Doubles. Olson totaled a score of 191 and won the top Ladies Honors, while Silverstein and Billeter were third and fourth, respectively. Sophomore-to-be Lily Nelles was second in the Junior Varsity ladies’ division.

Olson, Billeter and Silverstein combined to finish second of 14 teams.

In the Trap event, Olson shot 182 and finished in the No. 9 spot in the ladies’ Senior Varsity division. The event had 43 participants, and Billeter and Silverstein finished 10th and 14th, respectively. Sophomore-to-be Berdina Riggs was eighth out of 23 entrants in the Junior Varsity competition for Trap.

Olson was third in the ladies’ Senior Varsity division in the Trap Handicap, and joined recent graduate Samantha Cardinal, senior-to-be Bailey Claywell, senior-to-be Chiara Schouten and graduate Grace Cromey to finish second in the team competition. Riggs was second in the Junior Varsity ladies’ division.

Riggs was third in the Junior Varsity Trap Doubles.

Coach Trapp summed it all up when he said, “What a great performance!”

Thursday, July 23, 2020

2020 Xavier grad Menne on top of her golf game

Recent Xavier Prep graduate Ashley Menne has excelled on the golf course across Arizona and in several national tournaments.

Menne, chosen Arizona’s Player of the Year by in all four of her seasons as a Gator and a three-time state champion, earned another victory last weekend in the American Junior Golf Association Junior tournament at the River Crossing Golf Club in Spring Branch, Texas, near San Antonio.

Xavier grad Ashley Menne holds the latest evidence of her championship golf excellence, above, and celebrates with XCP co-head coach and chaperone Tui Selvaratnam, below. (Xavier Prep photos).

In her three rounds, Menne, who is headed to Arizona State on a golf scholarship, shot 67-76-70 to finish ahead of hometown favorite Emma McMyler of San Antonio.

Menne, who was chaperoned at this tournament by XCP golf co-head coach Tui Selvaratnam, is expected to play in a few more AJGA events as the summer winds down and she prepares to officially enter the collegiate ranks.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Retired teachers, staffers helped XCP stay on course

One of the most enjoyable things about being at Xavier Prep is its sense of community.

And a big part of that is the interaction that the faculty and staff have with the students as well as with each other.

When faculty and staff members retire, it leaves a significant void.

Five important members of that group said farewell to the school on June 30. They were Gary Cochran (Plant operations/facilities), Kathleen Conway (English faculty), Mark Maresca (World languages/Spanish faculty), Paula Petrowski (Admissions) and Mike Williams (Sports/security).

All are profiled here except for Williams, who was recognized by The XCP Files in an April 1 post.

Gary Cochran
Keeping the facility humming along has its share of challenges, and Cochran survived at XCP for 32 years. His most recent title was Director of Plant Operations.

Cochran laughed while describing his job duties:

“If it broke, I fixed it!’’ he said.

Gary Cochran (Xavier photos).
One of his first projects was remodeling a space at Fitzgerald Hall that used to be the site of the school’s theater. Plays and musicals later shifted to the new Virginia G. Piper Performing Arts Center. Before coming to XCP, his focus was on the electrical trade.

He has enjoyed dealing with staff people like himself, faculty personnel and of course, the students.
“I have tried to get along with everyone,’’ he said.

On occasion, Cochran has run into XCP students in stores around the community and has stopped to chat with them.

“Some of them worked there,’’ Cochran said. “It was good to see them trying to earn money, with some of it going to help themselves through school.’’

Cochran, who grew up in central Illinois, inherited the fixer-upper touch from his father, as did one of his sisters.

Now he will hang out for awhile and perhaps help his son, who also is handy, start a business.

Kathleen Conway
Dr. Conway wrapped up her 26th year at Xavier and is looking forward to spending more time with her husband and other family members. However, she acknowledged that it is not an easy thing to do and has its emotional moments.

“I have made a lot of beloved friends such as Paula and Mark and have seen many, many changes,’’ she said. “The sense of community and love here has been wonderful, including the students. And the Sisters (Joan Fitzgerald, Joanie Nuckols and Lynn Winsor) have done a great job helping to create a good environment.’’

Kathleen Conway
Conway was the English Department Chair/Co-Chair for many years. She also taught English and/or Theology at schools that go back to the East Coast, to Philadelphia and New York.

She looks forward to see how 2020-21 unfolds for the Xavier students, especially the incoming freshmen. After having her final year here and those of the seniors disrupted, she hopes for a better fate for all.

“The administration did a great job organizing things for us (faculty) with the electronic curriculum, as well as the tech (technology) people,’’ she said. “The students were thrown into the situation and handled it very well. They are funny. Some of them would say, “Hey, we get to sleep in, and we don’t have to wear the uniforms!’ ’’

Mark Maresca
When asked about his 30 years at XCP, Maresca, who taught Honors Spanish II, and received teaching awards, did not hesitate to answer.

“It was a wonderful experience, a great experience,’’ he said. “I have nothing but respect for the Sisters and all of the help they gave me.’’

Maresca also was helpful in the area of athletics, where he served as an assistant coach in track for head coach Dave Van Sickle for 12 years, and as an assistant for Van Sickle in cross country for 14 years.

“I still miss that (coaching). I really enjoyed it,’’ he said.

Mark Maresca
Maresca also enjoyed interacting with students, “getting to know them as people,’’ he said.

He grew up in New Jersey and moved to Arizona with his parents in 1974. He also was immersed in the Spanish language while living in Mexico for three months and eventually returned to the Valley, where he worked at some of the Phoenix Union High School District magnet schools.

After leaving Xavier, he remains active in various endeavors, most notably as a Park Steward for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. He began the volunteer work about a year ago.

The steward duties include park cleanup, trimming some of the vegetation, restoring some of the hiking trails and doing some painting.

One of his recent assignments was at South Mountain Park in Phoenix, one of the largest municipal parks in the nation.

Paula Petrowski
Petrowski was XCP’s Director of Admissions, helping to organize events for prospective students and their parents.

The process includes an Open House, admissions testing and the application process.

Paula Petrowski
The three-person admission staff “puts in a lot of work,’’ according to Petrowski. “There are all sorts of questions to be answered for those who are interested in their daughters coming to Xavier. You get to interact with so many people, and you are letting them know about the rich history we have had at the school.’’

A Phoenix native, Petrowski was in Admissions for 16 of her 35 years at Xavier, also serving as a teacher (French and Economics) and as the Director of Development.

“I’ve watched the girls at Xavier grow in so many ways, and so have I. It has been worth it,’’ she said.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Gators' Robertson goes extra mile(s) in Navajo Nation

Among America’s hardest-hit areas to be affected by the COVID-19 virus is the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona, northwest New Mexico and southeast Utah. Many of the residents have struggled and needed to find a ray of sunshine.

That ray of sunshine smiles as she walks among us, and her name is Kaori Robertson.

She is an incoming senior at Xavier Prep and spent the early part of her life living with her grandmothers on the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Ariz. She later moved with her parents to the Phoenix area, applied for enrollment at Xavier and was accepted.

She developed a love for volleyball and played for XCP’s varsity team the last two seasons, helping the Gators win the 6A Conference state championship as a sophomore in 2018.

Robertson never forgot where she came from. Her roots run deep, and that is what motivated her to give back to the Navajo Nation with a public-service project that she recently completed.

For most of June and early July, with the help of a Go Fund Me account, the establishment of a Facebook page and assistance from her parents, Jonathan and Jolene, Robertson raised $3,000. It went toward the purchase of handless water stations and touchless soap dispensers that she delivered to eight Bashas’ grocery store locations and a handful of trading posts in the area.

Xavier's Kaori Robertson holds one of the handless water stations that she donated to people of the Navajo Nation. (Photos courtesy of Robertson family).

Robertson explains the emphasis on hand-washing to a local resident.
Seven of the Bashas’ stores are in Arizona and one is in New Mexico (Crownpoint). The Arizona locations are in Window Rock, Wilkon, Chinle, Tuba City, Pinon, Kayenta and Sanders.

The trading posts were at Rocky Ridge and Lukachukai.

Robertson knows the importance of washing hands in fighting the virus, and when she made her deliveries, she would emphasize this to the residents.

“Of course I am sad about what happened (with the virus), especially up on the Navajo Nation,’’ Robertson said. “I wanted to do something for them, help them stand on their own.’’

By the time her three-day trip had been completed, she and her parents had traveled 1,450 miles. It was an amazing journey, to be sure. She also was able to see one of her grandmothers along the way.

“We hope that this will help reduce a lot of the contaminants,’’ Robertson said.

“I worked really hard at this, and I am thankful for the support I received from my mom and dad. It is different living out there and the people need to learn all they can.’’

Kaori Robertson (Xavier photo).
Xavier Athletic Director and Vice Principal for Activities Sr. Lynn Winsor is proud of Robertson’s accomplishments.

“She is a wonderful young woman,’’ Winsor said.

Robertson is thankful for the opportunities she has received at Xavier, both in academics and athletics.

She was selected to the Navajo Times’ All-Star Fall Sports Team last fall, the first such selection of a Xavier athlete. The defensive specialist/libero is looking forward to helping Xavier make a run at the state title this season, and would like to continue to play in college.

She already has talked to some schools and is hopeful of earning a Chief Manuelito Scholarship that awards financial assistance to Navajo students. She is required to study Navajo history and Navajo language in order to qualify.

“I heard my grandmothers speaking it (Navajo) and I want to be able to talk with them,’’ she said.

And playing volleyball at Xavier under the guidance of coach Lamar-Renee Bryant and her assistants has helped Robertson gain confidence “and just learn a lot about real life,’’ she said.

Once she gets to college, her plan is to study to become a pharmacist. That way, she will be able to help those back home in the Navajo Nation and wherever else she decides to go.

The recent project gave her a good head start.

Awesome, Kaori!

Preliminary scheduling window gives fall teams hope

Arizona’s high schools, including Xavier Prep, are inching toward the start-up of the fall sports seasons.

The latest news came Friday (July 10) when the Arizona Interscholastic Association unveiled a preliminary plan to get the seasons going. However, the AIA emphasized that nothing has been finalized.

The COVID-19 virus has turned things upside down, and a recent surge in cases in Arizona has prompted Gov. Doug Ducey to temporarily close some businesses that previously been opened, and he moved the start of school to Aug. 17. A start date for Xavier and other Catholic schools operated by the Diocese of Phoenix are expected to be given the go-ahead by the Diocese in the coming weeks.

“The wish is for fall sports to begin as soon as realistic,’’ said Xavier Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor. “However, the governor and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) will make the final decision for us. The safety of our students, coaches, officials and fans is primary for us as we look to resume.’’

The first Xavier team to start play would be golf, on the week of Aug. 24. Badminton would be next, on Aug. 31. And other fall sports such as volleyball, cross country and swimming/diving would get the green light on the week of Sept. 7. Football would be included in that.

The goal is to have all fall teams to finish their seasons on time, sometime in November for most.
It is possible that invitationals and tournaments during the fall season could be limited or canceled.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Turner fell in love with beach, will play at Stanford

When young volleyball players gathered for Xavier Prep’s annual summer camp in 2017, it didn’t take long to figure out which ones had a chance to make a significant contribution to the program.

All you had to do was watch a freshman-to-be, Serena Turner. It was the way she moved, the way she knew where to be most of the time, and the way she put coaches’ instructions into play with little or no confusion.

She went on to make the varsity roster and helped the Gators win 6A Conference state championship in the fall.

That, however, didn’t completely satisfy her desire to achieve excellence.

So she joined the XCP beach volleyball program as a freshman. The sport was not new to her. She had been playing since the eighth grade, and had played indoor since the sixth grade. She did not play indoor for Xavier as a junior in 2019 and will not play indoor as a senior in 2020.

“I fell in love with beach volleyball,’’ she said.

And she continued to soak up the sun and the beach knowledge like a sponge. It served her and the Gators well, as Xavier won the Division I crown during her sophomore season.

Turner liked beach volleyball so much that she applied for the application process (yes, applied for an application) to prestigious Stanford at the end of her freshman season. She completed all of the necessary paperwork and earlier this year was given approval, signaling her commitment that recently became official.

Serena Turner wants to win another state beach volleyball title for Xavier as a senior, then she will move on to Stanford (Xavier photo).
She is hopeful that by the time the spring of 2021 arrives, she won’t have her senior beach season stolen from her and her teammates by the COVID-19 virus as did the seniors in 2020.

The cancellation of the beach season “was heartbreaking,’’ according to Turner.

She said the beach Gators “had a good dynamic, had a real shot to win it again’’ last season.

She felt particularly bad for the seniors, especially playing partner Abby Converse, who went on to be accepted at Stanford and plans to walk on to the beach team at Stanford, according to Turner.

In the spring and particularly this summer, the 6-foot-1 Turner has not let the sand flatten under her feet. She has stayed plenty busy, playing for a club team in the Valley that attempts to beat the heat with 5 a.m. practices at a park in north Scottsdale. The team also participated in a tournament a few weeks ago at the Westworld facility in Scottsdale, playing matches in the signature barn/airplane hangar-type structure. Players did not wear masks during play, but had to use them in between matches.

Turner’s dream is to win another state beach championship for Xavier next spring. Then it’s on to Stanford, Calif., home of the Cardinal. The school’s beach team is aiming for improvement in the Pac-12 Conference that has been dominated by USC and UCLA, which have combined for two national titles each in the last four years.

One of Stanford’s former indoor players, Kerri Walsh (now Jennings) went on to achieve her greatest success in the beach game, winning three Olympic Gold Medals (with Misty May Treanor) and an Olympic Bronze in 2016 (with April Ross).

Turner aches to help the Stanford to climb the charts and calls it “my dream school. It has the academics, the athletics, and the location.’’

The goal is for Turner to perhaps get a double major in Computer Science and Environmental Science. It is the perfect place for the computer domain, as the school is in the middle of the famed Silicon Valley, home to many of the world’s greatest computer companies.

In 2019, Stanford was the world’s No. 2-ranked university for Computer Science, just behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

So there you go. Turner figures to step in and feel comfortable in academics as she has been in volleyball. But she is the first to tell you that it won’t be given to her. She knows she will have to work very hard for it.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Golfer Doss to take swings at Colorado Christian U.

The 2020 Xavier Prep golf season hopefully will begin within the next few months, with at least one Gator senior golfer already committed to a college team beginning in 2021.

She is Mary Beth Doss, who helped the Gators to a second-place finish in the Division I state tournament last season following state championship wins in 2018 and 2017. She will play golf and be a pre-med major at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood.

Doss finished at 7-over-par, tying for 16th place in the 2019 tournament over two days at the Omni Tucson National course.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

XCP swimmer Rankin commits to Ohio State

Mia Rankin has learned to develop a penchant for patience as she enters her senior swimming season at Xavier Prep.

It has served her well in her first three seasons in the water for the Gators. Patience helped her achieve her greatest success in the longer events, knowing when to make her move in the 500-yard freestyle, 200-yard individual medley and relays.

She helped Xavier win the Division I state championship as a freshman in 2017, with second-place finishes as a sophomore in 2018 and a junior in 2019. She competed in the 500 free, 200 IM and some relays at the state meets.

Now, nobody seems to know when, or if, Rankin will be able to get back in the pool for XCP this fall. She knows that she and her teammates will need to have patience as they await word from the school’s athletic department, the Diocese of Phoenix and the Arizona Interscholastic Association as they sort out the COVID virus scenario.

In the meantime, Rankin can look forward to 2021 and beyond after recently announcing her commitment to study and swim for the prestigious program at Ohio State.

Xavier Prep swimmer Mia Rankin (Xavier photo).
“I’m really excited about going there,’’ she said, although she hasn’t actually visited the campus due to quarantine issues that surfaced with the onset of the invasion of the virus.

She hopes to be able to get there sometime soon.

“We (she and OSU coaches) talked at the beginning, and I was able to meet most of the team over the phone and Zoom,’’ she said.

Rankin has continued to swim for her Phoenix Swim Club club team at the pool adjacent to the Phoenix Country Day School on the city’s northeast side, but some of the time in the water has been curtailed due to the virus.

She is hopeful that she and the new group of seniors will not be as affected as were athletes from 2019-20. Most of the spring sports were stopped in March, barely before their seasons got going.

“I feel bad for the girls who graduated this year. They couldn’t finish what they started,’’ Rankin said. “I hope we can get back to a regular school year (on campus) and if it means having to wear masks, it would be OK.’’

Her final four college choices were Ohio State, the University of Arizona, Southern Methodist and Indiana.

“Recruiting can be a hard process,’’ she said.

OSU coaches have sent Rankin a few videos that will offer some advice on practices and some exercises, etc., to help her prepare for being a Buckeye.

Rankin expects to swim in the longer events, particularly the mile. She said the team lost its top miler, which she hopes will open the door for her at that spot.

Xavier’s coach is Rankin’s father, Mark, who took over the program late in the 2017 season after the death of his wife and Mia’s mother, Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin.  Before she died after a courageous battle with cancer, Mo helped put the Gators in position for a run at the state title, which they ultimately achieved.

Mo would have been proud to see her swimmers finish strong, and she would be more than proud of Mia as she takes the next step.