Category Archives: cross country

Youth sports leaders to be recognized next week

Thirty-six youth athletes, coaches and youth sports contributors will be recognized for their dedication to positive leadership and outstanding character during the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission’s Youth Sports Awards Banquet next Saturday.

Winners of the Youth Sports of the Year Awards will be announced at the event, which will take place at 8 a.m. at Grand Canyon University’s new arena, 3300 W. Camelback Rd. in Phoenix. Register for the event here.

The nominees represent all levels of play from various youth sports offered around the Valley:

Jerod Aker (left), head baseball coach for Apollo High School.


Rob Gorrell – Coach and co-founder of Sandlot All-Stars Baseball.

Pat Murphy – Coach and co-founder of Sandlot All-Stars Baseball, All Nine Baseball Academy.

Patty Egan – Coaches cross country, girls soccer and track at Cactus Shadows High School.

Steve Bomar – Youth girls basketball coach and founder of the Gilbert Genies Basketball Club.

Eric KiblerHorizon High School baseball coach for more than 28 years and three-time recipient of the Arizona Coach of the Year award. In 2005 he received the ABCA High School National Coach of the Year.

Harry Demos CCV STARS sports pastor and director of coaching for boys soccer.

James Smith – Head track and field coach at Westwood High School, head coach and president for the AZ Flames Track Club, USATF Masters Chair.

Melissa Belote Ripley – Has been coaching club swimming for more than 30 years and currently coaches at McClintock High School and Rio Salado Swim Club.

Jordan Demos – Youth Soccer Coach for the CCV Stars Soccer Club.

Jake Peterson – Coaches middle school and high school football/basketball for Rancho Solano Private Schools.

Jaime Pagliarulo – Girls soccer coach for Hamilton High School, San Tan Soccer Club and Arizona Youth Soccer Association.

Steve LewisEmpowerment Through Sports (ETS) Youth Football League coach.

Dameon BlairBoulder Creek High School junior varsity basketball coach.

Jim Ewan – Football coach for Chandler High School since 2001.

Jerod Aker – Baseball coach for Apollo High School; he has been the head coach of a baseball team for a total of 15 years.

Joshua Braun (left) plays basketball at Boulder Creek High School.


Joshua Brown – Plays basketball at Boulder Creek High School, where he is a member of the National Honor Society and ranked 12th in his class.

Hannah Carson –  Track and field, Chandler High School. She’s ranked #1 in the nation for javelin and has qualified for the 2012 Olympics. She will be attending Texas Tech University on scholarship.

Zach Wright – Golf, Pinnacle High School, committed to Louisiana State University. He is currently ranked #12 Boy in the National Polo Rankings

Brandon Senior – Track and Field, honors student at Notre Dame Preparatory High School and member of the AZ Flames Track Club.

Nathan Ponwith – Tennis, Arizona Virtual Academy, participates in the United States Tennis Association.

Tyler Pugh – Football, basketball and baseball; attends Rancho Solano Private School.

Kyung Kim – Golf, Chandler Hamilton High School, currently plans on attending University of Southern California.

Molly Johnson – Baton twirling, Thunderbird High School, member of Phoenix Superstars Twirl Team, plans to attend Fort Hayes University in Kansas.

Dylan Hambright– Track, Arcadia High School, member of the Arizona Elite Track Club.

Shannon Gurley – Volleyball, attends middle school at Rancho Solano Private Schools, also participates in soccer and drama at school.

Wendy Riddell (S.T.A.R. Pony Club, ASU UC Soccer).


Jeffrey Kratzke – Volunteer coach for cross country and track at Cactus Shadows High School.

Hugh Smith-  Executive director of The First Tee of Phoenix, a non-profit organization that provides educational programs, values and healthy choices for Valley youth through the game of golf.

Lisa Sanchez – President of Holiday Park Little League, a volunteer position for an inner city youth baseball league.

Bob Capron – Oversees the Metro Phoenix United States Tennis Association. Inducted into both the USTA Phoenix Hall of Fame and USTA Southwest Hall of Fame in 2005.

John Canter – Started a community weightlifting and training program where 60 local kids are now involved and active.

Wendy Riddell – Youth equestrian coach and S.T.A.R. Pony Club board member, age group coordinator for ASUSC Soccer.

Erik Widmark – Executive director for the Grand Canyon State Games, the largest amateur sports festival of its kind in the country, since 1995.

Chad Robinson – Started the Prime Time Athletics flag football program, the official league of the NFL Flag program.

Peyton Sullivan – Youth Umpire for Deer Valley Little League, certified as a district umpire.

Scott Smith – Volunteer umpire-in-chief for Deer Valley Little League.

The Phoenix Regional Sports Commission was created to “enrich the community through sports.” The 501(c)3 non-profit focuses on three areas: bringing national and international sporting events to the state, assisting in the promotion of existing events and teams and supporting youth sports programs. Learn more.


Xavier sophomore is named Gatorade Arizona Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year

Sarah "takes off for the lead and doesn't look back."

Xavier College Preparatory sophomore Sarah Fakler has been named the 2010-11 Gatorade Arizona Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. The award, made possible by Gatorade in partnership with ESPN RISE Magazine, distinguishes Sarah as Arizona’s best high school girls cross country runner.

“She is an exceptionally talented athlete, but also dedicated to academics and serving her community,” says Sister Lynn Winsor, BVM, CMAA, Xavier’s vice principal for activities and athletics.

In addition to her cross country achievements, Sarah has maintained a 4.0 GPA, is an active member in her church community and has participated in the Xavier Xero Club, promoting environmental sustainability.

Sarah led the Xavier Gators to the team title in the Class 5A Division 1 state championship this past season with a time of 18:26.97. She captured individual titles at the Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival, the Sole Sports Running Zone Cross Country Festival and the George Young Invitational. She finished third at the Nike Cross Nationals Southwest Regional Championships with a time of 17:49:39.

Sarah with her award.

“Sarah gets in this hypnotic state when the gun goes off. Basically, she takes off for the lead and doesn’t look back,” says Xavier Head Coach Dave Van Sickle. “Usually, she comes home with the win.”

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field. RISE partners with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

Do you know a comeback kid?

Now a Xavier College Preparatory High School graduate, 2010 Fan Fave winner Tayler Renshaw returned to her alma mater to present a $1,000 check on behalf of PCH Sports Medicine for Young Athletes to make the inaugural donation for the $1.5 million new sports field.

Do you know a young athlete who was forced to sit on the sidelines because of an injury, illness, or physical limitation? Someone who had to go to physical therapy or treatment while teammates were competing and having fun?

The PCH Sports Medicine Program Comeback Student Athlete of the Year Awards Program is a chance to reward that hard work and dedication to get back in the game.

Nominations are being sought for the 2nd annual Comeback Student Athlete of the Year Awards Program, which recognizes outstanding young athletes who have returned to athletic competition after receiving treatment for an injury, illness, or physical limitation.

Throughout the school year, contest nominees will have the chance of being chosen as the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Week and highlighted on KPNX Channel 12’s Friday Night Fever or 12News Saturday Today. In April 2011, a panel of judges will choose the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Year. An award will also be given for the “Fan Fave” who is selected by online votes. Both winners will be awarded scholarship money to be presented at an end-of-the-year banquet. The winners’ athletic programs will receive cash grants.

Nominations are open to Arizona residents between the ages of 8 and 18 who are currently enrolled in Arizona public, private, charter or home elementary or high schools. Nominees must have participated in organized sports (school, club  or intramurals) and missed part of a season due to injury, illness or physical limitations. You do not have to be a PCH patient to be eligible for the awards program.

Last year, PCH Sports Medicine received more than 100 nominations. From those, 28 comeback student athletes were featured on 12News as weekly winners. Two of those athletes, Brett Butler and Tayler Renshaw, were selected as the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Year and Fan Fave Comeback Student Athlete, respectively.

Brett, who graduated from Corona del Sol High School last June, was diagnosed at the PCH Children’s Neuroscience Institute with a brain tumor that caused debilitating seizures. He underwent surgery to remove the growth, but the procedure resulted in paralysis to the right side of his body. He battled a long road to recovery, but eventually returned to Coronal del Sol’s cross country and varsity baseball teams.

Currently a freshman at Arizona State University, Brett was selected as the Comeback Student Athlete of the Year by a panel of judges.

In August 2008, Tayler began feeling ill and over time her health deteriorated to the point where she could barely run or jump. In February of 2009, her sickness was diagnosed by a team of specialists in the Division of Gastroenterology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Tayler found out she has Crohn’s disease.

In order to treat her illness and regain her strength, Tayler had to stop playing soccer for two months and now receives regular infusions every six weeks. Tayler worked extremely hard to get back into top playing condition during the summer before the start of her senior year at Xavier College Preparatory.

Tayler, now a freshman at Occidental College in Los Angeles, was selected by a public online vote as the Fan Fave Comeback Student Athlete. Over the 19 days of voting, close to 34,000 Fan Fave votes were collected.

Nominations will be accepted through February 27, 2011. To nominate someone you know, visit