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.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Spirit Line coach earns National Federation honor

 Monica Gaspar is a 1992 graduate of Xavier Prep, and she has spent long hours over the years contributing to the betterment of the school and its surrounding community.

She recently was notified by the National Federation of State High School Associations that she had been selected as the 2019-20 West Section Girls Spirit Coach of the Year. The West Section includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah.

Gaspar was nominated for the honor by the state’s high school sports and activities governing body, the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Coaching honorees were selected based upon their performance in the 2019-20 school year, lifetime community involvement, school involvement and philosophy of coaching.

Gaspar said it “was very cool’’ to be nominated last fall by the AIA, that it “was very nice’’ to be able to represent Arizona.

Monica Gaspar
She recently was contacted by Sr. Lynn Winsor, Xavier’s Athletic Director, who informed Gaspar that she had won the award.

“I said, “What?’ I hadn’t checked my mail in a few days, and this was a very nice surprise,’’ Gaspar said.

She considers her athletes to be a big reason why she was able to win the award.

“I told the girls, “This is partly your award, too,’’ Gaspar said. “They have always been responsive and have worked hard, but especially this year, with all that has been going on (Covid virus),’’ she said. “They set goals, aim higher, work well together as a team.

“They are close to each other, trust each other. It’s like an extended family. Ours is a year-round sport and everyone is very committed.’’

Xavier has 36 athletes on its spirit line roster this year, made up of all four classes.

Another reason for the program’s success is the work of Gaspar’s assistant coaches, Taylor Van Arsdall and Dani Behrens.

At the beginning of the school year, routines are at the basic stage, and more and more elements are implemented as time goes along.

Gaspar was among the cheerleading group at Xavier and she knows how important it is for the students to be a part of something like this (Spirit Line includes pom and cheer).

“It is fun to be able to watch them grow up,’’ she said.

Note: The cheer portion of the Spirit Line recently qualified to participate in the AIA state championships, to be held March 6, according to Gaspar.



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