Tag Archives: high school sports

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.

AZ Girls Lacrosse announces summer ball

Your daughter can keep her stick skills sharp over the coming off-season, as AZ Girls Lacrosse, or AZGL, is announcing a new summer league.

Summer Ball begins on July 7 and runs through August 4, with leagues for under-15, under-16 (rising seniors) and 2011 high schools grads/post-collegiate players. The format of the league is similar to AZGL’s Fall Ball — teams will play a game a week with no practices. Game times are at night to beat the heat, and play will be at the brand new Salt River Fields facilities at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. Here’s some more information from the website:

• Cost: $85 (includes jersey)

• Where: Salt River Fields

• When: Every Thursday July 7- Aug. 4

• How to register: There are two registrations depending on your child’s age. If your daughter is in fifth through 12th grades or just graduated high school, you register here. If your daughter graduated high school in 2010, is in college currently, or post-collegiate, she will register here. There are only a limited number of spots available so it will be first come, first serve.

Game Times

U15 and Younger 7:30-9pm

U16 – Rising Seniors 8:30-10pm

High school grads-post-collegiate 8:30-10pm

Sign up before June 30th to reserve a spot and grab the best deal. — Robert T. Balint

Track meet tension — and joy

Saguaro's Katie Drake (center) takes the baton from teammate Katie Alhadeff for the anchor leg of the 4x100 relay at Friday's Scottsdale City track meet. The team from Chaparral (left) is about to make the exchange while a runner from Desert Mountain (right) awaits her teammate.

Watching a high school track meet in the early evening this time of year is a relaxing and stress-free activity — unless your child is competing in the meet.  On Friday night, I went over to Chaparral High School to watch the Scottsdale City Track Meet, which is held annually for the five Scottsdale Unified School District Schools — Arcadia, Chaparral, Coronado, Desert Mountain and Saguaro.

In particular, I wanted to see Saguaro’s Katie Drake run the 100-, 200- and 400- meter races and the 4×100 relay. Katie is the daughter of Raising Arizona Kids Senior Account Executive Susie Drake and her husband, Scott.

Katie, now a junior, has been running since she was 7 years old.  “I started running because my mom thought I would like it,” Katie said Friday, “and then I grew to love it.”

Katie’s parents made their best effort to remain calm during the meet, but whenever Katie was on the track that facade fell away. There were emotional ups and downs as Katie finished second in the 100 meters, ran the winning anchor leg in the 4×100 relay (after overcoming a difficult baton exchange) and then ran out of gas in the 400 meters, where she had the lead in the last 100 meters but finished fourth.

Katie had plenty of gas left for her last race, however, as she finished first with a time of 27:39. As Katie crossed the finished line, Susie thrust her arms in the air with joy and quickly walked down the stands to congratulate her daughter.

After the last race, I asked Katie what it was like to run four races in a period of about two hours, including running the 400 meters within 10 minutes of finishing the 4×100 relay. “It was horrible!” Katie said while beaming and holding her first place medal. As you can see from the photo I took a moment later, it couldn’t have been too bad.

Katie Drake flanked by her parents, Susie and Scott, after winning the 200 meters .

As I started to leave the meet, I came upon Mary K. Reinhart, who was there to watch her daughter Emily, a Chaparral sophomore, compete in the last event of the evening: the girls’ pole vault. A year ago, Mary K. wrote in this blog about watching Emily try a new sport as a freshman.

“Emily is still working on getting over the bar in competition,” Mary K. wrote at that time. As we waited for the pole vault to begin, Mary K. wondered aloud whether here attendance this evening was “bad luck” for Emily. “Her event is usually the first one of the meet, so I never get to see it because of work,” said Mary K., who is one of the top political reporters in the state at The Arizona Republic.

As everyone in the crowd, and indeed many of the other competitors of the five schools, watched the final event of the evening, Emily proved that her mom’s attendance did not spell doom for her. A lot had happened in the past year. Emily may have been “still working on getting over the bar in competition” a year ago, but on this evening she won the Scottsdale City meet.

“Wow,” said her mom quietly. “Wow.” — Dan Barr

Getting a good start

State 400 Meter Champion Michelle Kreutzberg works on her starts.

While the first practice for many Arizona high school track teams is tomorrow and the first meets will not take place until later this month or early March,  many of the top track athletes have been at it for many months now. I ran into four of them over the weekend at Chaparral High School.

For almost every Sunday morning since September, Ben Kmetz, Porter Marsh, Andrew Kaufman and Michelle Kreutzberg have trained with coach Brad Gettleman.  All four are seniors.  Ben does the triple jump and hurdles at North Canyon.  Porter and Andrew are distance runners at Chaparral.  And Michelle attends Desert Mountain, where she is the defending state champion in the 400 meter run in Division 5A II.

In addition to running, their Sunday training sessions include plyometrics, weight training, abdominal and core exercises (including a variety of ways of tossing the medicine ball around) and running with weighted jackets.

(R to L) Porter Marsh, Ben Kmetz and Andrew Kaufman work the rope ladder.

On Sunday, Michelle was working on her starts.  Ideally, a sprinter wants to drive straight ahead out of the starting blocks and not pick her head up to look forward during the first six to seven strides of the sprint.  “My starts have never been great,” said Michelle, who wondered on Sunday whether her second step at the start was too long, thus forcing her to stand straight up too soon after the start. Michelle’s starts couldn’t have been too bad, since she has not only won a state championship, but will be going to Tulane University next fall on a track scholarship.

Porter Marsh airborne.

While Michelle worked on her starts, Ben, Porter and Andrew did various agility drills, including using a rope ladder on the track small hurdles to do vertical leaps. One could hardly see their feet as their staccato steps zipped quickly through the rope ladder on the track.

After they finished their workout, I spent a few minutes with the four athletes. All said they loved competing and, like most high school athletes these days, did not fully appreciate when they started their track careers how much work would be required. From what I saw on Sunday, their effort has been worth it. — Dan Barr

From left: Michelle Kreutzberg, Andrew Kaufman, Porter Marsh and Ben Kmetz.

The rewards of hard work

The Arizona high school football season comes to an end on Monday night with the 5A I and II championships at University of Phoenix Stadium.  For all the boys (and their families), it is the conclusion of a season that started with spring ball practices in early May and passing league games in June.  As a reminder of the hard work these guys have put in over many months, here is Robert Balint’s two-minute video of  last June’s “Big Man” competition at Arizona State University, which pitted lineman from schools around the Valley against each other in tests of speed, strength and agility.

As for Monday’s championship games, Chandler Hamilton and Mesa Desert Ridge play for the 5A I title at 4 p.m. and Scottsdale Chaparral and Peoria Centennial will vie for the 5A II crown at 8 p.m.  Good luck to all of them.  For the underclassmen, the first spring ball practice for the 2011 season is less than five months away.

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 comebackathlete.azcentral.com.

Fun in the trenches

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following video will not display in some browsers. If you cannot view it here, try the RAK magazine YouTube channel.

“This event is for you guys in the trenches,” shouted Arizona State head strength coach Ben Hilgart to a gathering of about 150 offensive and defensive linemen from 17 high school football teams around the Valley. “You are here to compete and work hard, but also have some fun.”

Most people don’t know this, but the Arizona high school football season started in early May. High school teams are allowed three weeks of non-contact practice without pads before school lets out. June is the month for passing leagues, which are low-contact, no-pads games with seven players on a side. There is no blocking, no tackling and no running plays. These are controlled scrimmages in which each team gets to run 15 or 20 passing plays at a time.

Many Valley high school teams will play four to six passing league games against other schools and also participate in one or more of the passing league tournaments put on by ASU, UofA and NAU. The tournaments attract teams from around the state and allow the coaches for the universities sponsoring the tournament to walk around and evaluate some of the top football talent in the state. At ASU’s tournament on June 9, ASU head football coach Dennis Erickson spent a couple of hours walking around the fields.

Because offensive and defensive linemen are left out of passing league games, the tournaments came up with the idea of “Big Man” competitions, or what ASU strength coach Hilgart calls the “Trench League.” These competitions resemble a mixture of football strength and agility training and a Scottish Highland Games.

At ASU’s Farmington Stadium softball field, the linemen for 17 high school teams participated in five drills: the Farmer’s Walk, a relay race involving dragging 180 pounds of iron chains behind you; a clean-and-press weight lift:, an agility running drill; the Tire Flip, a relay race in which a player flips a 160 pound tire in front of him as he races back and forth; and the Backward Sledge, a relay race in which player run backwards while pulling several plates of dead weight across the field.

The 17 teams accumulated points for each of the five drills, which seeded them for the final competition — the tug of war. Chandler triumphed in the tug of war finals against St. Mary’s, while Liberty High School won the overall competition for the evening, followed by Chandler, Chaparral and Pinnacle.

My father’s high school football coach had a saying that is just as true today as it was 70 years ago, when players wore leather helmets: “If the offensive line does its job, the backs should have to pay admission.”

This fall, their teammates who play the “skill” positions, such as quarterback and running back, will undoubtably get far more attention than these players do. But on a summer night in June, the big guys had some fun.

The next major passing league tournament will be the Fiesta Bowl 7-on-7 Passing Tournament, which will take place next Friday and Saturday, June 25 and 26, at the Brophy Sports Complex at 4800 N. 7th Street.  Spectators are welcome and there is no admission.  — Story and photos by Dan Barr | Video by Robert Balint

The tug of war champion Chandler Wolves.