Sat, April 04

Can't wait for fall sports<br>

Are you ready for some football?

And some volleyball, soccer, golf, swimming and cross country?

If the summer lull from high school sports has got you down, have no fear. Things are getting ready to crank back up again.

Most athletes from Mingus Union, Camp Verde and Sedona Red Rock sports teams will report for their first fall workouts tomorrow (Monday). By the start of next week, everybody should be "in camp" preparing for the 2001 campaign.

We're still a few weeks away from scrimmages and actual games – football players won't even put the pads on for awhile yet. But there's no mistaking the increase in energy levels on our local campuses.

Schedules have started appearing on bulletin boards (and sports reporters' desks!). Coaches have begun gravitating back to their respective school offices. Players have picked up their conditioning in the hopes of landing that coveted spot on the varsity roster.

This will be my second year of covering prep sports for The Verde Independent and Bugle. The first was certainly a dandy, so I can't wait to get started on round two.

It'll be interesting to see what story lines develop over the next few months. Here are a few already worth pondering:

• Can Camp Verde's girls soccer team repeat as state champs? The Cowboys won the first-ever 1A-3A crown for fall girls soccer last year. Many of the key players from that team will be back — including prolific goal scorer Chantel Reimer (a rising junior) — so they'll have a great shot.

Several Cowboys played club ball this spring and summer on a team directed by CVHS coach Loretta Grondin. A group of players has been meeting a couple times of week at Butler Park for informal workouts since school let out in June.

• Can Mingus challenge for the Grand Canyon Region football title and state glory? The Marauders returned to the 4A playoffs last season under the direction of coach Bob Young. That momentum seems to be carrying over into this season as evidenced by summer commitments to the weight room and various other camps and events.

The big key will be filling the holes left by more than 20 graduated players, stars from last year like Max Vickers, James Mickelson, T.R. Gaff and Eli Arnett.

• Can Ariel Latimer add to her state championship collection? The Mingus distance runner, who will be a junior, has collected five gold medals in spring track and field. She finished seventh in last fall's state cross country championships.

Latimer and the Lady Marauders compete in the toughest region in 4A, with high altitude schools like Flagstaff, Chinle and Page always producing title contending runners. Look for Latimer and Flag's Annie Falor to duke it out on the trails for the next few months.

• How will new head coaches fare? Camp Verde will have two new faces patrolling the varsity sidelines this fall. Tammy Tiemen is now the head volleyball coach, while Dave Miller will take over the boys soccer squad.

Both coaches were assistants at CVHS last year and so should be familiar with their crop of players. Both Cowboy teams made the playoffs a year ago.

• Will 2001 be another surprisingly successful year for the Marauders swim team? Mingus has said a graduation goodbye to state qualifiers like Lisa Short, Isabel Islas, Laura Joels, Matt Shires and Brandon Stockbridge, but a talented crew returns.

Rising junior Nathaniel Futral will be a name to watch. He broke a team record in last year's state championships and has enjoyed a solid summer. Keep your eye on folks like Liz Stewart and Lindsay Raber as well.

• How will Sedona Red Rock fare as a 3A school? The Scorpions dominated the 2A ranks for several years in nearly every sport — winning league championships in volleyball, boys basketball, girls basketball, golf, tennis, track, baseball and softball last spring.

Sedona will face much stiffer challenges in its new league, the 3A West, this year. New conference comrades include Camp Verde, Wickenburg, Parker, Chino Valley, River Valley, Fountain Hills and the new Higley.

Parker, for instance, finished second in the state a year ago in football. Wickenburg has great football, basketball and baseball programs. Fountain Hills has stellar girls sports teams.

The most intriguing sidebar could be watching the Sedona-Camp Verde rivalry continue to develop. The schools already play each other in numerous sports, but will the match-ups remain as friendly with the squads battling one another for playoff spots?

Stay tuned. I can't wait.

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