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.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Mountain biking continues to gain traction at Xavier

 There have been dozens, wait . . . more like hundreds of miles over all sorts of terrain, with many beautiful views as a bonus.

It has been a great way to build strength and endurance through a lifelong activity, along with building friendships for a lifetime.

Welcome to the Arizona Cycling League, where high school mountain biking club teams around the state compete each fall with four primary races (at two-week intervals) plus a state-championship race.

One of the consistently growing teams in the league that was founded in 2012 is a combination team that represents all-girls Xavier Prep and neighboring all-boys Brophy Prep. According to team director and head coach Rich Perrott, this season will be his program’s 10th.

Xavier's Gators get ready to take to the trail in a recent preseason workout at Papago Park in Phoenix (Photo courtesy of Coach Rich Perrott).

It’s always an exciting time, but the heartbeat could quicken, particularly on the XCP side.

“Overall, this might be the best team we’ve had,’’ Perrott said.

Xavier currently has 15 riders, but that could increase if more are added to the group after Monday’s (Aug. 29) Club Day at XCP.

Most of the practices are held out in the North Mountain Park area of north Phoenix, but there are days when the athletes come to the Xavier campus for “spin’’ sessions on stationary spin bikes as well as stretching and strengthening workouts, like the sessions on Thursday (Aug. 25).

There was a full house for a spin class for mountain bike riders at Xavier's upstairs workout room in the Activity Center (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Perrott said his two top riders for Xavier are Co-Captains Mary Hill, a junior who has been affiliated with the club since the sixth grade, and senior Grace Morgan, who is among the league’s leading JV cyclists.

“They give us more points and more competition,’’ Perrott said.

Morgan recalled the early days when she would fall frequently.

“I kept telling myself, “Don’t fall,’ ’’ Morgan said. “I started to go faster and farther. I did 10, then 12 miles (in workouts) and I am up to 18 now.’’

Starting at a young age helped Hill, who comes from a riding family (older sister Erin, rode for Xavier and now is a student at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff).

“I met a lot of friendly people who helped me along the way, and my sister helped me. I learned and continue to learn a lot,’’ Hill said.

Part of the learning process for Hill and others is repairing their bikes if they happen to malfunction for any reason. Riders are supposed to maintain their equipment through the races.

“The girls do know a lot of repair things and sometimes I think they just might be better at fixing than some of the boys,’’ Perrott said.

Hopefully they won’t have to put too much of that to use, with their efforts better served as they proceed over the courses and stay close to the front of the pack.


Xavier in Arizona Cycling Association South Division

Sun. Sept. 11 – Race #1, @ Fort Tuthill, Flagstaff, 11:30 a.m.

Sat. Sept. 24 – Race #2, @ Secret Trails, Snowflake-Taylor, 11:30 a.m.

Sun., Oct. 9 – Race #3, @ Pioneer Park, Prescott, 11:30 a.m.

Sat. Oct. 22 – Race #4, @ McDowell Mountain Park, Fountain Hills, 11:30 a.m.

Sun. Nov. 6 – High school state championships @ Wren Arena, Fort Huachuca, 10:30 a.m.


Grace Morgan, Sr., (Co-Captain); Mary Hill, Jr., (Co-Captain); Alyssa Issac, Sr.; Bailey Finch, Jr.; Morgan Finch, Sr.; Margaret Meaney, Jr.; Megan Wubker, Jr.; Ella Schuster, Jr.; Lizbeth Sanchez Garcia, Sr.; Lily Foster, Sr.; Clara Findlay, Fr.; Suleliddy Quintero, Jr.; Kaytlyn Cooper, Jr.; Cynthia Vilchis-Moran, Jr.; Shakira Reyes-Castillo, Jr.

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