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, September 1, 2020

Mountain bikers finally break out, enjoy outdoors

After several months of quarantine, members of Xavier Prep’s club mountain biking team are back in the great outdoors.

The sky has that bright blue color, that clarity. The girls can take a deep breath and then exhale.

And, of course, there are the trails on which they ride. The rocky terrain, in north-central Phoenix’s Dreamy Draw, is beautiful in its own way, and provides a good opportunity for the girls to prepare themselves for the challenge that lies ahead in the form of a five-race season that spreads across the state, including twice in the Phoenix area.

Once again, Xavier will be paired with sibling and neighbor Brophy Prep for the races.

On Monday (Aug. 31), assistant coach Deanna Young led a group of four of XCP’s most experienced riders through Dreamy Draw. A short distance away, in North Mountain Park, head coach Rich Perrott was working with riders who do not have as much experience, hoping to catch a glimpse of traits that will allow them to eventually make an impact.

The riders with Young were junior Aria Tseffos, sophomores Grace Morgan and Chloe Lindeback and freshman Mary Hill.

They were decked out in their riding gear, including small backpacks with water, had a few tools tucked away in their handlebars and kept an eye on the specialized tires that provide a steady grip on the trails.

Young grew up in the Boston area and moved to the Valley about 13 years ago. She has raced competitively and this is her third season at Xavier. She has a son, Barrett Belanger, who is a freshman rider at Brophy.

“One of the reasons I wanted to be at Xavier was to maybe help inspire the girls, but they are the ones who have inspired me,’’ Young said.

Tseffos has been riding since the seventh grade, but became more involved in the competitive world last year.

She said joining the XCP group “was the best decision I could have made. The things that I’ve done, the people that I’ve worked with, will always be a part of my high school experience.’’

Enjoying the rides is what she remembers, including making sure she begins her hydration process three days before a race and a spaghetti dinner that helps provide a boost of energy the night before.

Morgan said “it’s really great to be out here after being stuck at home. I studied Biology most of the time (during the quarantine from the COVID virus), and now I’m able to get back outside and be in the mountains.’’

It is good to interact with her teammates, “to motivate and support each other,’’ she said.

Lindeback and her teammates ride two or three times a week with some conditioning mixed in.

"It's a break from the (computer) screens,'' she said. "It's great being out here with your friends and coaches.''

Of the quarantine, she said, "It can sometimes make you unmotivated, but being out here makes you look forward to most everything,’’ she said.

Hill made opponents take notice when she excelled in the competition for junior high-age riders, representing Xavier.

It’s not surprising. Her older sister, Erin, who graduated from XCP earlier this year, also was a top rider for the Gators. Mary said she has tried to learn from her sister.

Mary knows that she will be competing at a different level now and wants to make sure she is prepared by training more than she has in the past.

“It definitely has been a change,’’ she said.

Xavier Prep 2020 mountain biking race schedule
Race #1 – Sept. 19-20, Arizona Nordic Village, Flagstaff.
Race #2 – Oct. 10-11, Pioneer Park, Prescott.
Race #3 – Oct. 24-25, McKenzie Ranch Trails Park, Vail (Tucson).
Race #4 – Nov. 7-8, McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Fountain Hills.
Race #5 – Nov. 21-22, Estrella Mountain Regional Park, Goodyear.

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