Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Monday, May 31, 2021

XCP students, athletes driven by competitive spark

 Xavier Prep cast a big, wide net across the landscape of competition in 2020-21 and brought in five state team championships. Add a few other strong finishes by other groups of Gators and you have one of the best overall results among schools at any level in Arizona.

Taking home state title trophies were golf, soccer, beach volleyball , Spiritline (five-person stunt) and perhaps this year’s highlight – softball,  the first in its history.

A handful of other Xavier teams came very close to joining that prestigious list.

Swimming and diving was the state runner-up for the third straight year to powerhouse Scottsdale Chaparral. The XCP club lacrosse team was runner-up in the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association’s Division 2 championship tournament, falling to Gilbert Higley.

The basketball and tennis teams reached the semifinals and the cross-country team finished fourth in the state. Basketball fell to eventual champion Surprise Valley Vista and tennis was defeated by eventual state runner-up Chandler Hamilton.

Xavier also had some individual athletes who excelled.

One week after the beach volleyball team claimed its latest crown, the team’s No. 1 doubles duo of senior Serena Turner and sophomore Summer McCann won the beach pairs title, similar to competition in tennis.

Dani Dyer and Belani Soto reached the tennis doubles semifinal and were the state runner-up, quite an accomplishment for them, both freshmen.

 And seniors Lina Vanderwey and Sophie Riviere took fourth place in the state badminton doubles tournament.

Badminton's Lina Vanderwey, left, and Sophie Riviere (Xavier photo).

The golf team title was sparked by a pair of underclassmen, freshman Kate Hauptman (third among individuals) and junior Ivy Song (sixth).

The club mountain biking team’s annual fall schedule was limited due to Covid virus concerns, but in November, the Gators showed a glimpse of what they hope will come this fall once full action resumes.

In the Cactus Cup Juniors series, XCP finished first and second in the girls’ quad competition, a relay race of sorts with four riders contributing in each.

The first-place team was made up of Aria Tseffos, Mary Hill, Chloe Lindeback and Grace Morgan. The second-place team was Gabriela Evans, Lizabeth Garcia, Kirsten Findlay and Susan Findlay.

In cross country, senior Jamie Stelnik finished 17th among individuals, and junior Ansley Burns was 21st before going on to help the soccer team win its title.

The track and field team had a number of young athletes who continued to work toward top performances, and they are looking to use this experience to improve in the spring of 2022. The XCP Spiritline and Gatorline girls were as competitive as ever.

At state swimming, XCP did well in the relay events as it usually does. The Gators were second in the 200-yard medley relay, the 400-yard freestyle relay and was third in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

Senior swimmers Mia Rankin and Kelly Scott finished their Xavier careers with a flourish – Rankin taking second in the 200-yard individual medley and second in the 500-yard freestyle, and Scott taking second in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles.

In the swim of things were seniors Kelly Scott, left, and  Mia Rankin (Photo by Don Ketchum).

There were two monumental efforts plays that will last a lifetime, one in soccer and one in softball.

In soccer, sophomore Bella Leonard hit a high-arching shot from about 40 yards away as time expired in the second overtime to lift the Gators to a 1-0 semifinal victory over Gilbert Perry at Gilbert Campo Verde. The ball went just behind the stunned Perry goalkeeper and into the net.

The sequence was shown over and over again on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Day.

Xavier went on to win the title a few days later with a 2-0 triumph over Scottsdale Chaparral, earning Coach Barb Chura the Coach of the Year honor by azcentral.com. Senior goalkeeper Jaden Campbell was named to the All-Arizona Team.

Goalkeeper Jaden Campbell, left, and defender Emmie Paulson tossed away their masks from earlier in the season to help Xavier win the state title (Photo by Don Ketchum).

The second individual highlight was senior catcher Macy Lee’s performance in the softball championship game against Mesa Red Mountain at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium. She drove in seven of Xavier’s 10 runs with a grand slam and a pair of doubles as the Gators won 10-0 in five innings.

Lee was named the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 6A Conference Player of the Year.

According to XCP Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor, the Archery and the Xavier Hotshots clay target shooting teams had strong seasons, and one of the Mock Trial teams won a region competition.

What an amazing year by all of the students, athletes and coaches! It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Go Gators !!


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