Tag Archives: High school

Club team promotes horseback riding and competiton

Photo courtesy of Crossroad Farm.

Crossroads Farm is currently accepting students in grades 6-12 (including those who are homeschooled) to join the Crossroads Farm East Valley IEA Team.

The full-service hunter/jumper and equitation barn in Gilbert has partnered with the Interscholastic Equestrian Association to bring the sport of horseback riding to students in middle and secondary schools and to promote and improve the quality of competition and instruction in the East Valley.

The cost to ride on the team is approximately $280, which covers the eight-week semester riding lessons. Show and travel fees are additional.

The Crossroads Farm IEA Team will participate in a minimum of three shows per semester. Shows are one-day, weekend events. All regular season shows are in Arizona at this time, with teams currently in the North, West and East Valley.

“This program is meant to give non-horse owners, and those unfamiliar but interested in horses and hunt seat riding, a chance to gain knowledge and compete in school-associated equestrian programs, while offering regional and national championships to qualified teams and individuals,” says Rachel Jansen Jones, owner and head trainer of Crossroads Farm. “No horse or prior riding experience is needed.”

The IEA horse shows will include classes ranging in skill level from walk/trot for beginner riders up to 3-foot equitation-type courses for the varsity riders. Teams need to be in place by Nov. 1.

Learn more

Crossroad Farm
460 E. Ray Road, Gilbert
480-812-8924 • crossroadsfarm.com

Interscholastic Equestrian Association


Homegrown talent, hometown edge: ASU Softball’s local lineup

Left to right): Breanna Kaye (Mountain Ridge H.S.), Dallas Escobedo (St. Mary’s H.S.), Talor Haro (Highland H.S.), Mackenzie Popescue (Chaparral H.S.), Sam Parlich (Basha H.S.), Katelyn Boyd (Horizon H.S.), Annie Lockwood (Paradise Valley H.S.)

By Robert T. Balint

When the Arizona State softball team opens the Women’s College World Series this Thursday at 4 p.m. against the University of Oklahoma, it will have something that none of the seven other teams in the tournament have — 14 of its 25 players are from 12 local high schools.

“Most of us are from Arizona, we’ve all been playing with and against each other for years,” said Mackenzie Popescue, one of the Sun Devil’s resident aces on the mound. A Chaparral grad who captained the Firebirds as a senior for the 2009 season, Popescue has a 13-3 record with a 2.22 earned run average. She got offers from big names like Texas, Alabama and UCLA, but she decided to stay close to home. “I’m a mama’s girl,” she said. “I always wanted to stay in state.”

Dallas Escobedo, a freshman phenom with a 32-3 season record, lives a half-hour away from campus and wouldn’t have it any other way. “I didn’t want to leave home, the hurler said. What’s more, “My family and friends come and watch whenever they want.” The two pitchers know each other well, having dueled many times, with almost every game going into extra innings.

Katelyn Boyd, a junior from Phoenix Horizon High and a top three finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award, lives at home and has connections with more than a few of her teammates from before Arizona State. “Talor [Haro]’s been my best friend since I was 14, and I’ve known Annie [Lockwood] growing up in high school, and I played with and against Dallas,” Boyd said.

Last Thursday, Boyd, Escobedo and Popescue took some time off from preparing for their Super Regional games against Texas A&M, which they later won 3-2 and 4-2, to sit down to talk about their transition from their high school teams to playing for Arizona State, and give some advice on those who would follow in their footsteps.

Tips for Ballplayers

  • College programs offer sports camps for high school athletes, which are a great way to get recognized. “I went to a bunch of Arizona State camps,” Popescue said. “I got to meet the coaches and the girls, and I fell in love with them.” As college coaches are not allowed to approach high school athletes unless the athletes visit the college campus, camps provide an opportunity to get a feel for the program. “You get to sit down and talk to the coaches,” Popescue said, “and get to know them, how they coach and how they deal with their players.”
  • Rise to the challenge. Boyd attended Horizon High School, but also played club ball, which is where she got noticed.  “How we worked on our club team—conditioning was hard—the goal was to get us set for college,” Boyd said. The increased intensity that her club team brought made the transition from high school to college ball easier. Also, Boyd suggests that girls play at the highest level that their skills can allow, no matter the age group. I feel like if girls can play up—if you’re good enough at 14 to play at 18 level, do it,” the shortstop says. “You can only get better by beating better players, tougher competition.”
  • Hit the books.  Escobedo attended St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, and that helped prepare her for college life. “St. Mary’s has strong academics—our classes were tough,” Escobedo said. The life of a college athlete is a harried one—classes, practice, homework, team meetings, etc. take up large chunks of time. Rising softball players have to know how to keep everything in balance. “It was private school so that prepared me, and made me more responsible,” Escobedo said. “That made me grow up quicker.”

Advice to Parents

  • Push your daughter, but not too much. “There were times I wanted to give up, and take it easy,” Popescue said about her days playing ball before ASU. “To get to this level, you can’t.” The desire has to come from the athlete. “You can’t make your daughter work hard,” Boyd said, “It has to just come around.” Says Popescue: “It comes down to hard work and pushing your kid. I mean, not to the point that they’re going to hate softball, but to the point that you’re working hard.”
  • Be engaged. “My dad always made sure that I got enough rest and sleep, and that I ate right,” Escobedo said. Richard Escobedo would go over with his daughter her performances on the mound and at the plate, and prescribed advice and extra pitching in the backyard. “He pushed me so much that I hated it, but I’m thankful because I wouldn’t be here [without it],” Escobedo said. Her mom, Jodi Gosch, played the “good cop,” talking Dallas through bad practices and games, always ready with a shoulder on which to cry. “She would be on my side, she’s happy for me all the time,” Escobedo said.
  • Find the right program. Boyd described her “checklist,” a list of what she was looking for in a college team. For her, ASU fit the bill—close to home, nice weather, etc. Aspiring players should make checklists of their own, so that they know what they’re looking for in a team. Find “the right coach, the right program,” Boyd said, and that fit depends on the individual.

Postscript — On June 2, Katelyn Boyd and Dallas Escobedo, along with their ASU teammate Kaylyn Castillo, were named first team All-Americans by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.  Another local girl named to the first team All-American team was Ashley Hansen, a junior shortstop at Stanford University.  Hansen is a graduate of Corona del Sol High School in Tempe.

Postscript II — On June 7, ASU won the Women’s College World Series by defeating the University of Florida 7-2.  Dallas Ecobedo was named the Most Outstanding Player of the World Series along with Florida’s Michelle Moultrie.

An NFL-style combine for student athletes

Photo courtesy of Future Pro Combines.

Future Pro Five Star Combines, designed to connect high school football players with college coaches, will be hosting a MEGAFEST Expo Five Star Combine tomorrow and Sunday (May 21-22) at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

The event is sponsored by Foothills Sports Medicine and Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST®).

Current and former NFL players, high school coaches and speed, strength and agility trainers will be training and testing future pro student athletes in a two day, NFL-style combine and camp.

Future Pro also is hosting a one-day Youth Football Clinic for boys and girls in grades 3-8 and a two-day Cheer Camp for boys and girls in grades K-12. The football clinic will include instruction about the fundamentals of competitive football and an introduction to combine training by professional athletes; the cheer camp will be instructed by professional cheerleaders.

Foothills Sports Medicine and FAST will provide certified athletic trainers and physical therapists for the two-day combine to assess and treat any injuries. Certified strength and conditioning specialists will guide athletes to achieve the results they need.

Student athletes in grades 8-12 are invited to compete with the best-rated high school athletes in the two day NFL-style combine. FAST ® will be hosting an “I AM FAST” station, testing the top athletes in speed, agility and strength.

“We educate our athletes on how to reach their maximum performance by targeting improvements in balance, power and quickness, strength and stamina, and neuromuscular coordination,” says Ahwatukee FAST Director Jeff Bloom, ATC/L, CSCS.

Log on to futureprocombines.com to register.

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.