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.

Monday, September 13, 2021

You can count on Xavier's 47 runners

 Xavier Prep’s cross-country program might have as many runners out this season than it ever has – 47 – and the Gators could almost stage a meet every week among themselves that might rival the depth and quality of a region or invitational.

“It is probably the most ever,’’ admits long-time head coach Dave Van Sickle.

The large roster doesn’t necessarily mean the Gators can unseat defending 6A Conference champion Phoenix Desert Vista, but it least gives Xavier a chance against that Ahwatukee program.

“We’re definitely the deepest in the state. You never know -- anything can happen,’’ Van Sickle said.

Senior Tatum Goforth wants to help Xavier win a cross-country championship (Photos courtesy of Coach Dave Van Sickle).

The roster is not overloaded in any one particular class. Everything appears to be balanced, averaging about 10-12 runners per class.

The Gators’ first two invitational appearances this season – at the Peaks in Flagstaff and the Fountain Hills Invite in Fountain Hills – provided some hints in regard to possibilities.

Xavier appears to have at many as 10 girls who could wind up in the top two dozen, or as close to that as possible. And it never seems to be the same runner stepping forward every time. It depends on the day, and it could happen at any time.

Two of the top runners are seniors Tatum Goforth and Hannah Wheeling. They provide consistency with their performance an leadership ability that shows as an example for the younger ones to follow.

Both are expected to be among the contingent of 21 top XCP runners who will participate in this weekend’s 40th Woodbridge Classic, one of the nation’s top invitationals, in Norco, Calif., on Friday (Sept. 17) and Saturday (Sept. 18).

“We’re off to a pretty good start as a team,’’ Wheeling said.

Senior Hannah Wheeling.

Many of the runners are trying to make up for lost time. Issues with the Covid virus limited their workouts a year ago, but this summer, the program was near full strength as the anticipation was high for the fall of 2021.

“We really couldn’t train all summer,’’ Wheeling said of 2020.

The desert heat won’t allow workouts after school, so the girls show up every day at about 5:30 a.m. to get their work in before showing up on time for their first class of the day.

Wheeling tries to not go beyond 9 or 9:30 p.m. before her head hits the pillow and rarely sleeps past 4:30 a.m.

“I’m used to it by now. It’s almost like I have an alarm system built in,’’ she said.

Proper hydration and nutrition are a must.

She hopes to continue to run in college, and has looked at a few already.

Goforth is excited about the chance to make a push for the state title.

“We have a super deep team,’’ she said. “I think we will have a really good chance to win state.’’

She said she has worked hard to keep her mental state on an even level as she prepares for races beforehand and gets into the action during the race itself.

Goforth has looked forward to the start of the season every year. She knows this will be her last in high school and wants to make sure the time is memorable.

“The team camaraderie. That’s what brings you back,’’ she said. “And having the dedication and the drive to succeed.’’

Xavier Prep 2021 cross-country roster

Abby Macaluso, Sr., Ade Luna, So., Alma Melendez, Jr., Ansley Burns, Sr., Ashley Stelnik, Jr., Ariana Thompson-Bueno, Jr., Barbara Paez, Jr., Bella Gomez, So., Bella Titus., Jr., Briony Campisi, Sr., Calista Flick, Jr., Cassara Ryan, Jr.

Catherine Alaimo, Sr., Caroline Vietor, Fr., Charlotte McClelland, Sr., Elle Honde, Fr., Ellie Hilsabeck, Fr., Emily Manuelito, Jr., Erika Germinario, Sr., Grace Teevan, Sr., Hannah Wheeling, Sr., Holland Carey, Jr., Jimi Gutierrez Marino, So., Karime Morales, Sr.

Karina Zaveri, Fr., Kylie Brown, Jr., Kylie Graf, Jr., Lily Beaver, So., Maia Weingard, Sr., Mk Fairbanks, Sr., Marissa Mansour, Fr., Maggie Mostoller, Fr., Naomi Young, Jr., Nora Hinkle, Jr., Olivia Charles, Jr., Reese Brown, Jr.

Reyna Silva, Jr., Riley Meza, So., Sarai Arkeveld, Jr., Sophia Corona, So., Sophie Maroufkani, So., Summer Goodman, So., Susie Findlay, So., Tatum Goforth, Sr., Zoe Lopez, So.




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