National skateboard competition is open to local skaters

Valley skaters still have a few more days to register for one of the nation’s largest and most respected amateur skateboarding competitions.

The sixth and final qualifying event for the 10th annual King of the Groms, a 12 and under skateboard contest series, and King of the Ams for ages 13 to 16, will be held at Kids That Rip! Skateboard School (KTR) in east Mesa Feb. 16-19.

An intermediate class at Kids That Rip! Skateboard School. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

The series consists of six qualifying events held throughout the country, followed by one championship event. This year’s champions will be crowned June 14-17 at the 3rd Lair SkatePark in Golden Valley, Minn. While KTR has sent several students to the national competition in past years, this is the first time the Valley skateboarding school has played host to a qualifying event.

“We want to get every young skateboarder in Arizona to participate in King of the Groms, whether they’re new to the sport or they’ve been in the industry forever,” says Geoff Eaton, KTR owner. “The organizers do an awesome job of making sure each kid feels really good about themselves. It’s a great experience and a great family-friendly event.”

As many as 100 skaters are anticipated to participate in the February contest – among them will be all three of Eaton’s sons. Jagger, 10, will participate in his second King of the Groms qualifying event this season, while Koston, 3, will make his skateboarding debut. Thirteen-year-old Jett will participate in King of the Ams, a new contest division open to 13- to16-year-old “expert” skaters.

The King of the Groms competition includes three divisions – beginner, intermediate and expert – in three separate events: street, mini-ramp and bowl. Finalists from the KTR qualifying event will advance to the national championship in June.

Participants can also compete for chances to win prizes, such as “Best Skate Face,” “Best Cheering Section,” and “Queen of the Groms.” Register online ($75 for one event, plus $10 for each additional event) at kingofthegroms.net.

Spectators are encouraged to cheer on participants throughout the weekend. The event will also include vendors, food and KTR’s weekly open skate sessions (regular fees apply). For complete hours and an event schedule, visit kidsthatrip.com.

KTR is located in the Desert Devils Gymnastics studio on the corner of Gilbert and McKellips Roads. Here are a couple more shots our photographer, Daniel Friedman, took during a recent visit.

Schmitt gives instruction to his intermediate class at Kids That Rip!

Jeff Jewitt catches Cam Sedlick, 11, of Mesa, who is in the advanced class and is trying to perfect a trick called a Blunt.

Phoenix Mercury honor 40th anniversary of Title IX

When Title IX was signed into law on on June 23, 1972, equality for women was ensured across all educational programs, including athletics.

In celebration of the law’s 40th anniversary, the Phoenix Mercury will honor and celebrate all women who were impacted by the legislation. The season-long initiative will recognize the effect it has had on women in the sports and business world.

Ann Meyers Drysdale. Photo by Rob Turchick.

Ann Meyers Drysdale, Phoenix Suns and Mercury vice president, felt the impact of the law passing first-hand when she was the first woman to receive a full athletic scholarship for basketball at the University of California Los Angeles in 1975.

“Playing collegiate sports anywhere other than a local college, let alone receiving a free education for it, wasn’t even in the realm of possibilities for me,” said Meyers Drysdale in a press release. “Celebrating how far we’ve come in 40 years is a great accomplishment. Whether women played sports in college or were finally allowed to participate in the sport of their choice on the high school level, it’s worthy of recognition.”

Anyone with a story of how Title IX benefitted them, a friend or family member is invited to submit it online at phoenixmercury.com and join in the celebration at the Mercury’s June 23 game. All who submit an entry will receive a free ticket to the game and take part in an on-court recognition at halftime.

“Title IX made sports a viable option for women and girls. Growing up playing sports, my role model was Larry Bird. Now my nieces can grow up idolizing Diana Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner. Being a pro basketball player is a real option for them,” said President and Chief Operating Officer Amber Cox in a press release.

The 2012 season tips off May 20 on the road against the defending WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx. The club’s home opener is Saturday, May 26 at 7 p.m. vs. conference rival Los Angeles Sparks.

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ASU women’s softball team tops preseason Pac-12 poll

Locally raised ASU players last May before the start of the NCAA tournament (left to right): Breanna Kaye (Glendale- Mountain Ridge), Dallas Escobedo (Glendale- St. Mary’s), Talor Haro (Mesa- Highland), Mackenzie Popescue (Scottsdale- Chaparral), Sam Parlich (Chandler- Basha), Katelyn Boyd (Phoenix- Horizon), Annie Lockwood (Phoenix- Paradise Valley High)

The defending national champion ASU women’s softball team has been named the top team in a preseason poll of Pac-12 coaches. The Sun Devils start their 2012 season on Thursday, February 9, with a 5 p.m. game in Tempe against Western Michigan.  The game is the first of the four-day Kajikawa Classic, which features seven other college teams.  All games will be played at ASU’s Farrington Stadium.

Last May, we sat down with seven locally raised ASU players shortly before they started their successful run in the Women’s College World Series.  The players, including All-Americans Katelyn Boyd and Dallas Escobedo, gave their tips to both players and parents on how to develop your softball skills and get noticed by college coaches.  You can read their advice by clicking here.

For a full schedule of the Sun Devils’ upcoming season and information on tickets, click here and here.

Nominations open for Spirit of Cotton Award

Do you know a high school basketball coach who consistently demonstrates the best qualities of coach, educator, mentor and community leader?

For the seventh year, Phoenix Suns Charities will recognize an extraordinary coach with The Spirit of Cotton Award honoring the memory of former Suns head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons.

All high school head basketball coaches in Arizona are eligible to be nominated. Nominations can be made by a community member, fellow coach/teacher, school administrator or student-athlete.

The Spirit of Cotton Award winner will receive a commemorative plaque and ring and a Phoenix Suns Charities grant of $10,000 for use in the school’s athletic programs.

Nominations are being accepted through March 9. The winner will be announced and honored at the Suns regular season finale against the San Antonio Spurs on April 25.

Previous Spirit of Cotton Award recipients include Byron Maynes of Salome High School in Salome (2011) David Lopez of St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix (2010), Howard Mueller of Phoenix Greenway High School (2009), Karen Self of Seton Catholic High School in Chandler (2008) and Gary Ernst of Mesa Mountain View High School (2007).

Cotton Fitzsimmons. Photo courtesy of the NBA.

Fitzsimmons, who died in July 2004, had been an integral part of the franchise since 1970, with his first of three stints as the team’s head coach. He returned to the Suns in 1987 as director of player personnel. In 1988-89, Fitzsimmons added coaching to his duties with the Suns and engineered what, at the time, was the third-biggest one-season turnaround in NBA history, converting the Suns from a 28-win non-playoff team to a 55-win team that advanced to the 1989 Western Conference Finals.

Over a 20-year NBA coaching career, Fitzsimmons won 832 games with four different franchises. He was twice honored as NBA Coach of the Year (1979 with Kansas City, 1989 with the Suns).

For more information on The Spirit of Cotton Award, or to download a nomination form, please visit SunsCharities.org.

Arizona girls lacrosse pioneer Jessica Livingston on cover of Lacrosse Magazine

Chaparral girls lacrosse coach Jessica Livingston is featured in this month’s issue of Lacrosse Magazine as one of the “10 people changing youth lacrosse now.” The magazine cites Livingston for creating AZ Girls Lacrosse, a K-9 instructional league she started with only five girls in 2004 and has since taught lacrosse to about 1,000 girls in the Valley.  Livingston also started a post-collegiate team, the Arizona Storm, for which she still plays, and since 2002 has been the head coach of the Chaparral Firebirds, the current two-time defending Arizona high school champions.

In 2010, US Lacrosse recognized Livingston with its Excellence in Growing the Game award, which is given to an individual who supports the US Lacrosse mission and vision to develop lacrosse in a particular geographic area.

“I’m beyond shocked, honored, you name it,” said Livingston on Tuesday when January issue of Lacrosse Magazine, which also features a two page photo of her inside the issue, came out.

While the national attention is flattering, Livingston was far more focused on Tuesday on the first day of practice of the high school season.  Chaparral returns only seven players from last year’s state title team, having lost 14 players to graduation and two players to moving out of state.  “The first day of practice is always a great day!” said Livingston as she pulled lacrosse sticks, balls, field cones and mouth guards from out of the back of her truck parked alongside the road next to the practice field at Mountain View Park in Scottsdale.  “What could be better than the first day of practice?”

This Saturday morning, January 7, Livingston will also be starting a new six-week session of her Desert StiX lacrosse program for girls in grades K-9.  All sessions will take place at Cochise Elementary School, Mountain View Park, 9451 N. 84th St. in Scottsdale.  To register for the Desert StiX program, click here.


Early bird registration for Desert StiX program through Dec 31

The Desert StiX girls lacrosse program starts a new six-week session on Saturday, Jan. 7 for girls in grades K-9, beginner to advanced, who may be interested in learning and playing the “fastest game on feet.”  All sessions will take place at Cochise Elementary School, Mountain View Park, 9451 N. 84th St. in Scottsdale.

Each session entails drills, scrimmages, and fun learning games. The purpose of Desert StiX is to prepare girls with the fundamental skills they need to advance in the sport of lacrosse. Girls are frequently divided by skill levels to help them grow and advance over time.

Early Bird registration fees, in effect through this Saturday, Dec. 31, are as follows for each age group:

Pixi StiX (grades K-2): $85 for one Saturday session each week.

Junior StiX (grades 3-5): $145 for two sessions each week, including Saturdays.

Chop StiX (grades 6-9): $165 for two sessions each week, including Saturdays.

After Dec. 31, registration prices will increase $25 for each group.

To take advantage of the Early Bird registration fees, register here.

The elite meet this week at the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge

Several of the elite high school basketball teams in Arizona will be featured this week at the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge at Mountain View High School, 2700 E. Brown Road in Mesa. The five day tournament, hosted by the Mesa Public Schools and the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau, features 16 teams, including four from out of state.  The participating Arizona schools include three defending state champions, Tucson Amphitheater, host Mesa Mountain View and Westwind Prep from Phoenix.  Other local schools include Phoenix Arcadia, Scottsdale Chaparral, Tempe Corona del Sol,  Phoenix Desert Vista, Mesa Dobson, Scottsdale Horizon, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Phoenix Pinnacle and Mesa Red Mountain.

The tournament will feature eight games each day from Tuesday, December 27 through Friday, December 30.  The first game each day will be at 9 a.m. and the last game will start at 8:30 p.m.  Two games are scheduled for Saturday, December 31.  A full schedule for the tournament can be found here.

Two of Thursday’s games, the 7 p.m. game between South Sioux City, Nebraska and Corona del Sol and the 8:30 p.m. game between Mountain View and Desert Vista, will be televised on Cox Cable Channel 7.

Tickets for the tournament are $10 for each day and $30 for the entire tournament.