Tags Articles tagged with "MHS"


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Payson Hacker (submitted photo)

Maricopa High School senior Payson Hacker has signed a letter of intent to play soccer at Fort Lewis College. An injury knocked her out of this season, but she scored 17 goals her previous two seasons on the MHS varsity team. She was also named to the All-Region Second Team two years ago.

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Danae Ruiz (ERAU)

Maricopa’s Danae Ruiz is again leading her college basketball team to the Cal Pac playoffs.

Ruiz, 22, a 2016 graduate of Maricopa High School, is a senior guard for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott. Saturday, she scored a career-high 34 points for the Eagles in a win over Pacific Union College to end the regular season.

The Eagles were 23-4 overall and are seeded second in the California Pacific Conference bracket of the NAIA.

Ruiz was the team leader in scoring with 13.75 points per game, which is eighth in Cal Pac. Last season, she was the conference’s player of the year. She is majoring in forensic psychology.

Her free-throw shooting is 79.3%, ranked third in Cal Pac.  Her 330 point total is sixth. She is seventh in 3-pointers and eighth in steals. Ruiz has 54 steals, 54 assists and 98 rebounds.

Embry-Riddle takes on University of California-Merced in the conference playoffs Saturday in Prescott.

Important decisions for its second high school come before the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board this week.

The board could hire an architect and construction manager as well as a project manager for the construction of another school to alleviate an over-capacity situation at Maricopa High School. Those items are on Wednesday’s consent agenda.

Also on the agenda, albeit under executive session, is the selection of a school site. District spokesperson Mishell Terry said that information is “not quite ready” to be made public.

MUSD created a selection committee of qualified people to make the recommendation for construction manager at risk and architect/engineer. By policy, at least one member was a senior management employee of a licensed contractor and one was an architect or engineer.

The committee reviewed the proposals that resulted from the request for qualifications and made a short list of finalists before forwarding a final recommendation to the board. While those recommendations are not yet public, the administration is asking the board to approve Facilities Management Group as the project manager.

FMG has been a guiding force for the district on its expansion for more than a year.

The construction personnel and the site are to be paid for with state School Facilities Board funds. The MUSD board is to consider the recommendation from its Land Selection Committee regarding an appropriate site for another high school and then authorize the negotiation with the owner of the property.

Last year, SFB earmarked $22.3 million plus funds for up to 40 acres for the project.

The board meets at 6:30 p.m.

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Saneya Cowing heads a ball that bounded into the net during the playoff game at Campo Verde.

The Maricopa High School girls soccer team kept a lid on second-ranked Campo Verde much of the game Saturday but ultimately fell 3-1 in the state championship bracket. Seeded 15th in the round of 16, the Rams had the Coyotes scoreless until late in the first half. Campo Verde had the 1-0 lead at the break, but MHS tied the score off a bouncing header from senior Saneya Cowing.

The Coyotes broke through and scored twice more in the final 20 minutes, however, to move on to the quarterfinal. Maricopa’s season ended with a 9-7-1 record overall but with high expectation for the coming seasons as the team is laden with sophomores and freshmen.

Cowing and sophomore McKinley Hacker were both in the 5A San Tan region’s Top 10 in scoring during the season. Sophomores Lexi Rowe and Anna Kramarczyk were Top 10 assists leaders. Next year, the MHS soccer teams move to the 6A Desert Southwest region.

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McKinley Hacker, shown scoring earlier this year, had two goals against Marana Thursday.

After a tough closing week of the regular season, the Maricopa High School girls’ soccer team downed Marana in the 5A play-in tournament to advance to the state championship bracket.

The 4-1 win over the Tigers came after the Rams lost two games by a combined score of 9-0. The girls rebounded with aggressive play, however, and scored three in the first half on a chilly evening north of Tucson.

Led by sophomore McKinley Hacker’s two goals, Maricopa pulled off a slight upset. The Rams were ranked 17th while the Tigers were 16th. They both had 7-5 records.

In net, freshman Jessica Taylor had eight saves.

Sophomore Anna Kramarczyk scored a goal and had an assist. Senior Saneya Cowing was credited with a goal, and junior Jezelle Magallanes had an assist.

With Maricopa, there are four 5A San Tan teams in the 16-team championship bracket.

The Rams are now seeded 15th and will face No. 2 Campo Verde, which defeated Maricopa 4-1 during the regular season. Campo Verde had been top-ranked until being defeated by Casteel in the last game of the regular season. Casteel is now the No. 1 seed in the bracket.

Maricopa plays Saturday at 5 p.m. at Campo Verde High School, 3870 S. Quartz St., Gilbert.

For the second year, students at Maricopa High School are hosting Art for the Heart, Maricopa’s community art festival selling creations to benefit the American Heart Association. Displaying her art and helping organize the event is Assistant Director Lexie Nordhoff, a 15-year-old student-artist working with graphic design teacher Maria Pour.

Raven Figueroa at the inaugural Art for the Heart in 2019.

What: Art for the Heart Fine Arts & Crafts Festival
When: Feb. 15, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Copper Sky Lake, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Info: 520-568-8100, ext. 4136, Art4HeartAZ.wixsite.com/home


Lexie Nordhoff. Photo by Brady Stamps


The daughter of Teri and Steve Nordhoff, she has lived in Maricopa since she was 5 years old. Through her art, she also explores human psychology, but she has displayed other skills as well. Two years ago, she was the MUSD Spelling Bee champion, and she is on the MHS swim team.

What to know about Lexie Nordhoff

Residence: The Villages
School: Maricopa High School
Year in school: Sophomore

How did you first learn you had an artistic talent?
When I lived in Indiana, my parents owned a pottery store, and I began painting pottery at a young age. This was the beginning of my artistic career. I loved the smells and tactile experience of painting ceramics. My parents always supported my artistic endeavors. As I grew older, I moved away from painting the various bisque structures to painting on canvas.

What is your favorite medium?
Watercolor. I enjoy the freedom and ease of the medium, even when I make a mistake with watercolor, I can incorporate it into the piece. The medium is often difficult to manipulate, which has made me become a stronger artist than I was without it.

What is your favorite genre?
I appreciate surrealism; it allows me to remove myself from my preconceived notions of art and escape from reality.

Describe your favorite piece of art.
One of my favorite pieces is rather strange. It is a Monet piece titled “Pheasants and Plovers.” What I enjoy about this piece is it’s wispy and ethereal; it draws you in and captivates the audience with its peculiarity.

With which of your own works are you most pleased?
My favorite piece that I created is a surrealistic/pop-art portrait of a girl with a hand coming out of her mouth. It is titled “Pink Ladies,” which is a street term for barbiturates, which are highly addictive sedatives. This is a part of my sustained investigation based on indulgence. My work has explored many types of indulgences from gluttony, materialism, infatuation, abuse, cosmetic alterations and even celebrity culture and the negative effects that come with fame. The hand coming out of her mouth represents the struggles being masked by drug abuse.

Outside of art, what are your hobbies/interests?
Leadership, which I pursue with the MHS Graphic Design CTSO, being their vice president, and community services, which I accomplish as being the assistant director of the Art for the Heart Festival.

What do you plan to do with art as an adult?
I would like to pursue my passion for psychology. Art therapy is an avenue I want to explore. Art is a reflection of one’s psyche, the internal toil, happiness and things that we keep from others. That’s what a therapist helps others with.

This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

Master Teacher Aidan Balt Maricopa High School's recipient of a Fulbright scholarship.

By Aidan Balt

I want to highlight the amazing work of the youth in this community and the educators who invest into their lives.

AAs a classroom teacher at Maricopa High School, I work with students from all over the world on a daily basis. Former Arizona Teacher of the Year Josh Meibos once put it something like this: “My dream was to see the world, and then the world came to me.”

For me, as a life-time wanderer and learner, being an educator is not only the perfect profession for me, in some ways, it is the only profession for me. So, when Meibos talks about the world arriving in his class, not only do I relate to it—I live it.

Last spring, I took a huge professional leap and submitted my application for a year-long teaching fellowship through the Fulbright organization. When the notification that I had actually been awarded the fellowship arrived, I was both shocked and thrilled! Now, as a Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow, I am deeply involved in my graduate coursework on developing global classrooms. In June, I will be traveling for an international field experience in Peru.

While this opportunity is once in a lifetime, in the last eight weeks or so, I have realized something even more valuable: when I look around MHS, it is clear to me that we are already a very global campus. We have almost 20 international staff members, students who speak Navajo, Cambodian, Tagalog, Swahili, Spanish, Laotian, and many other languages.

We are a Title One campus of approximately 2,600 students who hail from all places in our nation and even from across the globe. We have at least 12 tribal communities represented at MHS. We have students whose families have fled war-torn regions. We have staff members who have lived internationally, many of whom served in our military and were based in various locations around the world.

I am realizing that our diversity is our strength; it truly is a small world, right here in the middle of Maricopa. We all exist in this space together, but unless you work at, or frequently visit our campus, this “little” global community might be completely new to you. On one hand, our high school campus is over capacity and in some ways bursting at the seams, on the other hand, our campus is bursting with diverse perspectives and experiences which add value not only to our school, but to our city as a whole.

Over the next six months, I want to share my perspectives with you as a teacher, a learner and a Fulbright recipient, on fostering and building a global classroom for my students and how I am encouraging those around me to do the same. I want to highlight the amazing work of the youth in this community and the educators who invest into their lives. I also want to share how experiences outside of the United States can help us all take perspective of the amazing opportunities and resources in our own backyard. I hope you will join me on this journey and maybe identify your own global perspective and ways that you can contribute to this small world.

My journey to this place begins a long time ago during my own high school experience. As a high schooler, I was fortunate to have many wonderful teachers who taught me great lessons about life and learning, but by far, there was one teacher who impacted my life in a profound way, and this teacher was a driving factor in my decision to ultimately pursue education as a career. When I was a senior in high school, this teacher told stories about his own experiences as a Fulbrighter in Germany and Japan. Since then, I have always dreamed of one day calling myself a Fulbrighter.

The Fulbright organization was founded in 1946 and is considered to be one of the most prestigious scholarship programs in the world. Annually, around 8,000 students, educators, scientists, and artists, are awarded grants and fellowships. Fulbright aims to improve intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, and intercultural competence between citizens of the U.S. and citizens of other nations through the exchange of people, ideas, and skills. Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms (FTGC) awards approximately 75 grants each year. For this last grant application, around 500 teachers applied. The goal of the program is to equip teachers with the skills needed to prepare our students for our global economy and to foster an international perspective through global collaboration.

FTGC is sponsored not only by the Fulbright organization, but also by the U.S. Department of State and IREX. FTGC Fellows take a graduate course for ten weeks prior to attending the Education Summit in Washington, DC. After the summit, teachers are partnered with a smaller group from their cohort for an international teaching experience. During this portion of the fellowship, the Fellows work with an international teacher and international students in their school. After the international field experience, the Fellows complete a capstone project which is essentially a work of action-research focused on taking what they have learned and bringing it back to their school and classroom.

In 2020, the FTGC Fellows will be traveling to Colombia, Peru, Senegal, Thailand, India, and Morocco. The countries for placement are determined in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the FTGC Fellows do not choose their placement. So, what is the goal of all of this? Well, it is to build international relationships between educators, nations, and peoples, not on the macro-level, but on the micro-level, it is about preparing our youth for the world of tomorrow. If you know any educators, you know that we are on the frontlines in regard to the fact that our world is changing.

In a professional development session I participated in this year, I heard it put this way: “If you are teaching the way you learned it, you are teaching to the past.” Our world is more global than it has ever been at any other point in history. Students today are preparing for jobs that don’t even exist yet. As I work to be the best educator I can be, I realized that I needed to expand my own toolkit in order to prepare our youth for the world of not only today, but the world of tomorrow.

Students today are preparing for jobs that don’t even exist yet.

But, again, if you know any educators, you will know that teachers often like to stay in the background and work quietly. Teachers can have a difficult time speaking about the work we do, the craft of being an excellent educator, and the heartbreak, hard work and headaches that go with it.

For all my fellow educators, a former Teacher of the Year wrote about why teachers need to dare to go first. “In my visits with teachers, I’ve found that one of the most depressing things I hear is a variation of: “I can’t do_____, I’m just a teacher.” But in my mind, only a teacher can do the kinds of advocacy we are called to do.

Because I was “just a teacher,” I was invited to speak to both the Israeli and the Palestinian ministers of education. I also was invited to speak to the lieutenant governor and the chairmen of the education committees in my state. Someone has to go first. Why not you? If you’re reading this, I can guarantee that you’re not “just a teacher.” You are a stabilizing force for good, a fierce promoter and protector of our democracy.

For so many children, you are the difference between hope and despair. For so many teachers, you are the model of what a change agent looks like and sounds like. To paraphrase the Biblical book of Esther: ‘And who knows whether you have not become a teacher for such a time as this?’ This is your time. Dare to go first.”

Now, I am not the first Fulbrighter by any means. I am not the first teacher to write for the local newspaper. I am not the first teacher to achieve National Board Certification. But, I am still daring to go first. I am taking a step. I am daring, I am bold, I am leading. I am hoping that others will follow. I am daring to go first by asking my students to learn about the world and evaluate their own place in it by doing that for myself first.

Aidan Balt is a recipient of the Fulbright scholarship, a National Board Certified teacher, an Arizona Teaching Fellow and an Arizona Master Teacher. She has taught at Maricopa High School since 2010.


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Michelle Poppen

By Michelle Poppen

The Maricopa High School Career and Technical Education Department would like to announce that February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. CTE Month celebrates the value of workforce development and the accomplishments of CTE programs throughout the United States.

Maricopa High School’s CTE Programs and Teachers:

  • Marketing – Julian Rodriguez
  • Stage Craft – Kevin Piquette
  • Computer Maintenance/Networking – Brad Chamberlain
  • Graphic Design – Maria Pour
  • Engineering – Aian Pableo
  • Digital Photography – Chuck King
  • Culinary – Greg Mahon, Hannah Norby
  • Sports Medicine – Justin Ennis
  • Automotive – Erick Fierro
  • AFJROTC – Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey, Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory
  • College and Career Technology Classes – Forrest Nuzum, Tony Fuller, Jim Frye
  • CAVIT Central Campus Programs – Mike Glover, superintendent

Maricopa High School’s Additional Team Members:

  • MHS Principal Brian Winter
  • Assistant Principal/CTE Administrator Michelle Poppen
  • CTE Administrative Assistant Karen Malouff
  • College and Career Coordinator Bernadette Russoniello
  • School counselors Deanna Paine, Larry Veltrie, Vanessa Stone, Mark Lavit

We are proud to serve the Maricopa Community and please contact us to schedule a tour.

520-568-8100 or mpoppen@musd20.org and brussionello@musd20.org

Michelle Poppen is a vice principal at Maricopa High School and CTE director.

Michael Flood signed with UTEP as Marcus Brown signed with Culver-Stockton. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Marcus Brown (left) signed with Culver-Stockton as Michael Flood signed with UTEP. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Michael Flood, a Maricopa High School senior, became the second football Ram in as many years to sign a letter of intent to play at University of Texas at El Paso.

He expects to follow Jacob Cowing to campus. Cowing had 550 receiving yards as a freshman for UTEP, an NCAA Division I program, and started seven of 12 games. While visiting the university, Flood and his family had lunch with Cowing to get an inside view.

“We went over there, and it was a great feeling,” Flood said. “You hear all these things about El Paso, but once you get over there, it’s actually a really nice city. It’s huge, and they’ve got a huge support group, a lot of fans at UTEP, great facility, great staff.”

The Floods moved to Maricopa from Ohio five years ago. Michael played on the Rams’ line four years. Harris called the recruiting process for him “arduous and stressful.”

Flood, who had originally committed to Northern Arizona University, said he had offers from Idaho, Georgetown and University of California-Davis. Listed as 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, Flood was named First Team as an offensive lineman in the stacked 5A San Tan Region of the Arizona Interscholastic Association. MHS head coach Brandon Harris said UTEP was interested in Flood before even seeing film on him.

He was one of two Rams on “Signing Day” to announce their decisions Wednesday. Marcus Brown signed to play for Culver-Stockton College, an NAIA program in Missouri. He earned the Wildcat Scholarship, an $8,000-per-year academic scholarship for four years.

Coach Brandon Harris

“These are young people who have the opportunity to, No. 1, continue their education; No. 2, do so with little or no cost involved for them,” MHS head coach Brandon Harris said. “They can come out of school with no debt and also continue to play sports.”

Besides playing corner and wide receiver for the football team, Brown also ran sprints for the track team. He said he intends to study biology.

Brown said he used to live in Fort Leonard Wood, so Missouri is a familiar place. And the Culver-Stockton campus gave him a warm welcome.

“I like the campus. I pretty much fell in love with it. I like the coach a lot. We talk on Twitter every day. He’s a pretty cool guy,” Brown said. “I went down there and talked to the players and instantly made relationships. I already know who I’m going to roommate with.”

Harris said the recruitment process is eye-opening for the MHS athletes, especially when they see representatives from Division I universities on campus and checking out the program. This year, he said, there were about 35 recruiters.

He credited Principal Brian Winter and his emphasis on raising the academic standards to put student-athletes in a place where they are prepared for college classes while coaches prepare them for college-level play.

A handful of other MHS football players expect to sign letters of intent soon.

“It’s exciting for Maricopa High School and for this football program and for everyone involved,” said Athletic Director Jake Neill.

Michael Flood with sister Ava and mom Toni.

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Photos by Raquel Hendrickson
With three games to go, Maricopa High School girls’ soccer is 6-3 for its regular schedule (7-4-1 overall), while the boys’ team is 2-7 (3-9).
Both teams lost to Campo Verde Jan. 28. The girls lost 4-1 to the top-ranked team in 5A, and the boys lost 3-0 to the Coyotes.
The games promoted pediatric cancer research, with all players wearing gold shoelaces.
Despite a rough last two weeks of January, the girls are still within striking distance of the playoffs. They are ranked 22nd, and the top 24 qualify for the post-season.
“The girls had two setbacks in the last couple of weeks,” head coach Cortney Kellenaers said. “We dropped an overtime loss to Willow Canyon and the game to Sunrise Mountain. Both of those games I feel we should have been able to win; however, they were valuable lessons.”
The Rams host Higley Tuesday for senior night, then finish the regular season at Casteel and Gilbert in region contests.
“Casteel and Higley are ranked within the top 5, while Gilbert is in the top 10,” Kellenaers said. “The girls look to take advantage of one or two of those games and surprise a couple of teams, but our strength of schedule points within the power point system should help us out a lot moving forward.”
Maricopa’s girls are above Higley in the 5A San Tan standings. Sophomore McKinley Hacker is fourth in San Tan in goals and points. Sophomore Lexy Rowe is third in assists.
The boys, on the other hand, have had a rebuilding year.
“We have not won a game since the tournament and are really facing the psychological challenges that come with trying to find a win,” Kellenaers said.

Realignment has not lessened the challenge for Maricopa High School football.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association announced new regions Tuesday after determining conference assignments at the end of last year. Unlike many of MHS’s other sports, the football program stays in the 5A conference and is now in the 5A East Region after being in San Tan the last two season.

The 5A conference is divided in East, North, Central, West I, West II, Sonoran I and Sonoran II.

“San Tan or 5A East, it’s the same thing we’ve had the past two seasons,” MHS head coach Brandon Harris said. “It’s still, top-to-bottom, the toughest division in football no matter the classification, 6A or 5A. So, the name of the region changes, some teams leave and are added, but the region’s pedigree is the same.”

The East Region is packed with playoff teams.

The region competition for Maricopa will now be Campo Verde, Gilbert, Horizon, Notre Dame Prep and Saguaro. Campo Verde and Gilbert were in 5A San Tan with Maricopa. Campo Verde lost the 5A championship game to Williams Field. Gilbert was 4-6 while Maricopa was 3-7.

Horizon, playing in the Northeast Valley Region last season, was 9-1 before losing in the first round of the open bracket. Saguaro is new to 5A, moving up from 4A, where the Sabercats were 9-1 and finished second in the open bracket. Notre Dame, on the other hand, had been re-assigned to 6A but moved back to 5A on appeal. The Saints, too, were 9-1 and reached the semi-finals in the 5A bracket.

“No matter what, we have to worry about ourselves,” Harris said. “We’re going to prepare this winter, spring and summer to compete with anyone that is on the schedule no matter the name or teams they put in it.”


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Photos by Kyle Norby

On Senior Night for the Maricopa High School wrestling team, the Rams defeated North High School, 63-15, Thursday.

MHS won 11 matches from 106 up to 285. Head coach Erick Fierro shared the results.

Xavier Rose of Maricopa won his 106-pound bout with Anthony Prudencio to earn six points. In the 113 class, Gabriel Garcia defeated North’s Akshaya Lord, also with a fall.

Angelo Romero and Timothy Quiroz took their matches by forfeit in the 120 and 126 matches, respectively.

MHS senior Michael Peters won his 145 match over Efren Castro by a 6-3 decision. Zachary Kondravy defeated Gustavo Briones in the 152 class with a fall. Cody Long defeated Ricardo Lopez in 160 with a fall.

At 170, Nicholas Mooney defeated Hector Diaz with a fall. Carlos Pino downed Isaac Stubbs in 195 with a fall. Quinton Green defeated Angel Morales in the 220 class with a fall. Junior Hunter Taylor finished off the Maricopa scoring by downing Jose Solano in the 185 category with a fall.

Felipe Diaz took an 8-3 loss in the 182 class. Matthew Blodgett lost in the 138 class, and Colton Reed lost in the 132 class, both through takedowns.

MHS seniors honored Thursday were Mooney, Peters, Thymen Harry and Juan Marquez.

Maricopa’s final competition of the regular season is Jan. 29 at Horizon High School, where the Rams are scheduled to meet Horizon and Notre Dame Prep.

The state championships are Feb. 13-14 and Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.

Sophomore McKinley Hacker is a region leader in girls' soccer. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Arizona high school soccer rankings were announced today, and the Maricopa High School girls’ varsity team is No. 5 in 5A.

The Rams trail only Campo Verde, Millennium, Casteel and Cienega in the rankings unveiled by the Arizona Interscholastic Association. Campo Verde and Casteel are in the San Tan Region with Maricopa. None of those teams have yet competed against each other.

Maricopa is 6-1-1 overall and 5-0 in regular season play.

“We are hoping to continue that into region play where 3-4 of the teams are usually top 15 in the state,” head coach Cortney Kellenaers said in an email.

The girls are next at home Jan. 24 against Goldwater. Then Maricopa boys’ and girls’ teams will host Campo Verde Jan. 28 in a game supporting pediatric cancer research in Arizona.

“Both Campo Verde and MHS players will be wearing gold shoe laces in support with the profits of the purchase of shoe laces going to the Go4theGoal foundation,” Kellenaers said. “In addition, we are inviting out the local boys’ club players.”


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Logen Thomas (22) and Asher Miller (23) eye the ball in a loss to Sunnyside. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School’s boys’ soccer team was shut out through two games this week, losing to Sunnyside (13-1) and Paradise Valley (4-2-1) by identical scores of 5-0. Midway through the season, the Rams are 3-5 overall, 2-3 in the 5A conference and 1-0 in the San Tan Region. They next play Jan. 14 at Willow Canyon.

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Shakira Gillespie helps Maricopa run over Campo Verde. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

With back-to-back wins this week, the Maricopa High School varsity girls’ basketball team improved their record to 11-7 overall. The Rams are 8-2 in the 5A conference and 1-1 in San Tan Region play.

The girls defeated Campo Verde 57-18 in a home blowout. Brooke Smith led the scoring with 16 points, including three 3-pointers. Evone Santiago hit four 3-points for 12 points to with four rebounds and two steals. Tayler Riley-Coleman had seven rebounds, nine points and four steals and blocked a shot. Shakira Gillespie had six steals, eight points and four rebounds.

Maricopa downed Notre Dame Prep at home, 40-27. Gillespie was top scorer with 15 points, top rebounder with 10 and had six steals. Katherine Gores had 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Santiago has six steals, six rebounds and three points. Riley-Coleman blocked three shots and added five points.

This week, the Rams moved up one slot in the state rankings to 15th in 5A. After competing in a holiday tournament in Chula Vista, California, the Rams had a sloppy return Saturday, losing to Williams Field (7-6) at home, 54-47. Their next competition is a home game against Higley (4-12) Jan. 17.

Family background leads to neurology

Freya Abraham
Freya Abraham

Freya Abraham has wanted to be a doctor since she was 4 years old.

While the specialty has changed, the goal still exists and is even nearer her grasp. At 17, she is now a semi-finalist for both the prestigious Flinn Scholarship and the Coca-Cola Scholarship.

It is the second year in a row a Maricopa High School student has been named a semi-finalist for the Flinn. Last year, Chandler Chang received the scholarship, which is valued at $120,000.

“The cool thing about the Flinn is they know people who do what you want to do,” Abraham said. “I was looking into Flinn scholars, and there are several that are already interested in public policy and science degrees. You don’t have to stumble into this field and try to find your own connections. You can be part of a community, maybe work on something they’re working on and then start your own project. It’s just easier if you have that level of support and resources.”

The status as semi-finalist puts Abraham in the top 80 of the 800 Arizona students who applied for the scholarship. In the campaign for a Coca-Cola Scholarship, she is in the top 1,928 out of 93,000 who applied nationally.

The Coke Scholarship of $20,000 ($5,000 per year in college) goes to 150 students. This year, 50 semi-finalists are from Arizona.

The Coke semi-finalists must complete a second application that is even more in-depth than the first, and it is due in January. The first application looks at their academic record and inquires about activities the students are involved in but has no essay requirement. Round 2 is different.

“Now specifically, they listed the activities I submitted,” Abraham said. “They’re like, ‘Write an impact statement for each one.’ For the essay questions now, they have like six different ones.”

She is also a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist. In Maricopa High School’s DECA chapter, she started winning awards during freshman year and by junior year was chapter president, when she won an overall first-place award in the state competition. She founded the school’s STEM Club (“I love STEM Club”), was a state-level winner in Junior State of America, founded the Girls Who Code Club at Maricopa Public Library, participated in TGen BioScience Leadership Academy, Girls State and Future Health Leaders of Arizona and is involved with several programs with her church.

By her mother Neetha’s account, Freya has always been self-motivated and curious. Reading voraciously by the time she was 4, Freya has become a high-energy teen.

“The only thing we need to tell her: ‘Freya, go and sleep,’” Neetha Abraham said. “We want to see her sleeping. The last six months, we want her to get to sleep at least six hours per day. If it’s a finals test sometimes she stays up to 2 a.m., 3 a.m., some days 4 a.m. waking up at 6 a.m.”

Neetha started staying up with her, “guilting” her into going to bed.

Each year, the Flinn Scholarship awards 20-24 graduating seniors who will attend an Arizona college.

Freya and her parents, Francy and Neetha, looked at Arizona State and University of Arizona and were impressed. Freya leaned toward the neuroscience program at U of A, which also has programs for management and public policy. It is also where Francy earned his master’s degree.

“The nice thing is, U of A has been very involved with the Flinn Scholarship,” Freya Abraham said. “ASU also sent me a little email about my being a semi-finalist, but U of A sent me a package in the mail and a card from someone who knows, a medical nonprofit director who’s interested in what I’m interested in. Also, they have an award for Flinn semi-finalists, $5,000 a year in addition to your merit awards. They give you the vibe that they really want you.”

With or without the Flinn or Coke scholarships, she hopes to have undergraduate studies, medical school and residency with U of A. That adds up to many years of schooling.

“Her father was pushing, pushing, pushing her to go into engineering because it takes four years,” Neetha Abraham said.

Freya said her father encouraged her to explore biomedical engineering as an option that would be within her field of interest but get her into a job sooner. Her older brother Alfred, who was valedictorian of his senior class at MHS, is studying material science.

“But I’d rather use the tools than make the tools,” Freya said.

She initially wanted to be a neurosurgeon, but that changed last year as she became acquainted with neurologists through programs in which she was participating.

“I like the neurologists’ lifestyle and the kind of relationship they have with their patients a bit more,” she said. “Because with surgery, you just see the person when you operate, and that’s it. If you’re in neurology, it’s a bit similar to oncology in that you tend to have patients for the rest of their life. You tend to build that relationship.”

Abraham said her family has a history with neurological issues, from Alzheimer’s disease to Asperger’s syndrome and autism. So, her interest in the field arrived early.

When she was in second grade, her principal pulled her out of reading class to show her a book about Phineas Gage. He became a focal point of brain studies after suffering a horrendous injury in a worksite accident, during which an iron rod went through his head.

“And he had a total personality change because that section of his brain that controlled his emotions was gone,” Abraham said. “So now he became very irritable. He used to be very polite, but then couldn’t keep a job any more, couldn’t stick to tasks. I thought that was very interesting.”

The information was formative for Abraham.

“After that, everything seemed kind of boring,” she said. “Because we don’t know enough about the brain. We know the brain can kind of fix itself like that. Any other organ, like if you lose half your heart, it’s really hard for that heart to keep going. We need to stick another heart in you. If you lose half your brain, you can still keep going.”

Francy and Neetha Abraham, originally from India, were Minnesota residents when Freya was born. They moved to Arizona when she was 2 and moved to Maricopa when she was 3.

She attended Legacy Traditional School through eighth grade. While her friends left town to attend high school at Valley schools, Freya remained to attend MHS like her brother.

Freya expected to have difficulty switching from a highly rated charter school to a district high school.

“But automatically you have a larger range of faculty to go to for different things,” she said. “Because we have the opportunity of living in a developing public school, people will go to you for opportunities. My friends at Horizon or Desert Vista, it would be hard for them to start a club. It would be hard for them to get a leadership position even if they wanted to because so many other kids were trying to vie for these positions. The teachers were tired. They were like, ‘We don’t need another club. Guys, stop.’ But Maricopa is different because the administration especially really likes it when kids want to take initiative and want to be involved. You get positive feedback for that kind of thing here. I don’t think some of my friends have ever been to a school board meeting.

“I’ve really enjoyed my high school experience.”

Freya Abraham wants to be a pediatric neurologist and also engage her leadership skills by forming medical nonprofits.

“A lot of people I’ve met, they can get their treatment plan worked out with their doctor. The problem is everything else,” Abraham said. “Like education. We have different IEP [Individualized Education Program] services, but they’re not personalized. Families need help navigating that. I met a family whose daughter would have seizures when she heard loud noises. So, they had to apply for a zoning permit for the community. And they didn’t even have any idea how to do that, so they kind of ticked off the local motorcycle club. Some people came over and started driving around their house, which sounds funny until you realize their daughter was going into seizures every time that happened. It took weeks for them to figure that out on their own. They had to pay their own legal fees. So, I would be interested in creating a network for those kinds of services to be available to people who need them.”

She said it is important to her to have smaller medical clinics, which can better follow up with patients than a hospital, and have a “bridge” between the hospital and clinics.

“You can’t do a lot of procedures in a clinic; they’ll send you the hospital. It’s just an issue that bothers me,” she said. “A lot of people get sent home from the hospital and pass away. Or they won’t get communications from the hospital and something will go wrong. There’s no kind of after-care. I’m interested in being part of new programs that would take care of patients in that critical time afterwards.

“A girl I know was sent home after she had pneumonia. Her heart stopped in her sleep. If someone was monitoring that, like at the hospital they would have had a Code Blue and restarted her heart. Her family didn’t know; they were all sleeping.”

She like the notion of not having to worry about work or applying for grants in order to fully focus on her college experience. A major scholarship would allow that to happen.

She credits the MHS faculty for being supportive and specifically Bernadette Russoniello for her earlier guidance as DECA advisor and her current role as College and Career counselor.

“If I have an idea, I’ll float it by my parents,” Abraham said. “They love me, but they’ll be like, ‘Do you need to do this? Can you just go to sleep? Do you have to do this new thing?’ And I’ll be like, ‘I don’t know. Maybe. Can I try?’ And I’ll go to Mrs. Russ, and Mrs. Russ will be like, ‘OK, you can do this thing, but here’s how you can do it in a shorter timeframe.’ I feel like I have a lot of energy, and she focuses me in the right direction.”

She said the only thing she didn’t get in Maricopa was being close to people working on a larger scale.

“We don’t have lab facilities close by. We have school labs, but we don’t have a genomics lab in this city. We don’t have a hospital lab in the city,” she said. “We’ve always had to go out. So being able to be at a Top 2, like University of Arizona, that’s close to all those resources and also being able to know the people working with those resources. I know I can get to where I want to go eventually; the Flinn Scholarship would help me get there faster.”

She said her mother is “No. 1 when it comes to the reason I was able to do all my things and not fall over.” She said Neetha was top of her school and fourth-ranked in her state. While she likes to brag on her mother, Neetha likes to brag on the school.

“Her friends went to other schools, they don’t have semi-finalists. They don’t have National Merit,” Neetha Abraham said. “Maricopa did that.”

Freya agreed.

“You have a Mrs. Russ here. You have an administration that wants you here,” she said. “Maybe this environment isn’t everything that you’ve wanted. Maybe you want to go to a school where they’ve had Nobel Peace Prize winners come and speak. Maybe you want to go to a school where they have state-of-the-art labs on site. Well, you can help build that. If you come and you gain awards and activities, you can be the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Why are you waiting for other people to do it for you?”

For others who want to succeed in their scholarship campaigns, Freya Abraham offered some advice.

“You have to have a good GPA that shows you try in your classes. You have to have good test scores that show you tried to prep for them. But after that, they want people who are original. You can be original anywhere.”

Her parents speak Malayalam and attend a Catholic church with a special Malayalam Rite. Abraham has not only sung for special occasions like wedding and funerals but also has a built-in network from the church families, with some of the girls already students at U of A.

She said she feel fortunate to come from a support system of family and school that has set her up to succeed academically and in life.

“I always read a lot, and in children’s fantasy a big theme is this ordinary guy or girl suddenly able to do all these crazy things,” she said. “I always thought that if I spent enough time working on something or if I try hard enough, I can do it. Why shouldn’t I do it?”

Senior Kayla Occhiline signs a letter of intent with PVCC. Submitted photo

Two Maricopa High School softball players signed letters of intent to play at the collegiate level, and a third is ready follow suit.

Infielder Kayla Occhiline signed with Paradise Valley Community College. Kielee Keys-Carillo, who plays second, third and outfield, signed with South Mountain Community College.

According to head coach Jason Crawford, Kiana Miller-Gomez is set to sign with PVCC next week as well. She plays third base and outfield.

Last season, Occhiline was Second Team All-Region, and Keys-Carillo and Miller-Gomez received honorable mention.

Erin HIldick dances a solo she choreographed for the MHS Winter Dance Concert. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The dance classes of Maricopa High School presented their winter dance concert, Stages of Life, at the Performing Arts Center to full houses. The diverse numbers were choreographed by the students themselves as well as teachers Lindsey Skomro and Courtney Miles. The concert included groups, ensembles, duets and solos from the growing program.

Freshman Jenae Ford pulled down three rebounds Thursday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School girls’ basketball is off to a strong start with a 4-2 record. The losses came in tournament play against 6A teams during the Thanksgiving break.

“We definitely had a good start. We were able to get some good competition in the holiday tournament this past weekend,” head coach RaShawn Calvert said. “It’s only going to prepare us for our region game. We’re able to get minutes for a lot of people right now, so it can help us in the future as well.”

Meanwhile, the MHS boys’ varsity started with a 2-3 record. The victories have been against charter schools  in tournament games.

Thursday, the girls defeated Camelback at home, 48-18, while the boys’ lost to the same school on the road, 53-25.

Junior Brooke Smith led Maricopa with 10 points as the girls spread the scoring around. She also had two rebounds and three steals.

Antanique Fortune hit two three pointers on her way to scoring eight points, followed by Andrea Harker, Shakira Gillespie and Shelby Smith with six each, Jenae Ford and Tayler Riley-Coleman with five each and Kaelyn Peters with two. Riley-Coleman had five steals, Kat Gores had four rebounds, and Evone Santiago had 4 assists.

They travel to North Canyon tonight to take on the 2-3 Rattlers. Calvert said her girls need to work on keeping a competitive mindset “no matter who we’re playing, whether they’re the last team in the state or the first team in the state; coming out every night and working on the things we need to get better at. Obviously, our turnovers have to improve, and just being confident, having the confidence to get the rebound or take the shot. Just go out there and play.”

The MHS boys, playing a similarly aggressive running game, will host 1-1 North Canyon at 7 p.m.

FMG partner Mark Rafferty points to an end date in 2022 on a draft timeline to build a second high school for MUSD. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After a loss at the ballot box, Maricopa Unified School District is planning its next steps to build a second high school.

At a special meeting of the governing board Wednesday, Mark Rafferty, a partner at Facility Management Group, showed a draft timeline that would have a school ready to open for the 2022 school year. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman also explained the budget limitations.

MUSD has only partial funding for a second high school. About 56 percent of voters who participated in the Nov. 5 election voted against a $65 million bond.

Recapping a meeting with the School Facilities Board, Lopeman said the SFB funding of $22.46 million for 125,000 square feet is firm. It is for new site construction only and not to expand the Maricopa High School campus.

“The amount of money that has been allocated, while we are very grateful for it, is not intended to build a comprehensive high school like we envisioned, like our students deserve,” Lopeman said.

MUSD Governing Board members sit with staff and Mark Rafferty in a special meeting. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The package from SFB also includes $3.7 million for a school site, if needed.

The square footage of 125,000 would allow for about 1,300 students. Lopeman described a two-story building that might look like the 100 building on the MHS campus, a structure that is 68,000 square feet. The school would be “basic,” with no playing fields, no carpet, but probably polished concrete.

The funds would pay for some furniture, equipment and wiring for technology but not the tech itself, Business Director Jacob Harmon said.

“On the bright side, $3.7 million is generous enough to buy a site that can be a comprehensive high school someday,” Rafferty said.

Lopeman said the architecture and engineering must reflect the budget limitations. “We have phases we will be looking at over the years.”

Most similar schools MUSD officials looked to for guidance actually had much more square footage to work with.

“There is no other high school that has been built with just SFB money.” Superintendent Tracey Lopeman

“There is no other high school that has been built with just SFB money,” Lopeman said.

“That’s the first thing they told us. ‘What’s your plan, because we know you cannot build a school with the monies we’ve given you,” Harmon said.

The district may bring back to voters a revised bond request in the near future. Meanwhile, officials are looking at creative funding alternatives for the short-term and long-term.

Board President AnnaMarie Knorr, a legislative agricultural lobbyist as a government affairs manager for the Western Growers Association, said a state lawmaker approached her after the election results showed MUSD would not get a bond. The legislator pointed out some schools in similar circumstances have received legislative appropriations of a few million dollars to complete construction projects.

Board member Torri Anderson also suggested looking into the possibility of creating a “specialty” high school. Board member Joshua Judd asked about expanding the current high school campus as a short-term solution.

The governing board will need to decide method of procurement and a selection committee. As early as its Dec. 11 meeting, it may start the process of finding an architect.

The construction environment in Arizona has changed since the last time MUSD built a school, when project delivery was through the so-called “hard bid” process. Rafferty said for much of the past decade, school-construction projects “largely, predominantly, in 99% of cases have been delivered through the construction-manager-at-risk delivery system.”

Though there is a push to rediscover the hard-bid delivery method, in which the school would select a general contractor with the lowest bid, Rafferty said it was his opinion the relationship between the schools and the contractors would be “somewhat adversarial” and the system was not in the best interest of the school districts.

“We really have to be moving forward on two separate tracks, with and without the bond.” Board member Joshua Judd

Quality-control and cost-control issues, such as a high number of change-orders that created a final cost that overshot the low bid, had government entities looking for alternative processes. Rafferty said the construction-manager-at-risk method was already popular in other states before coming to Arizona.

“The reason we have alternative delivery methods is because of what happened in the ‘90s with hard bid,” he said.

His company, FMG, recommends MUSD use the CM@R procurement method because of the collaboration among the school district, construction manager and architect. Rafferty said though hard-bid is simple, it could take 30%-40% more time.

CM@R is based on qualifications.

During the CM@R process in hiring subcontractors, a representative of the school district will be at the table when bids are tallied, he said.

MUSD Board President AnnaMarie Knorr

Rafferty also recommended hiring the architect and the construction manager concurrently. Negotiations on fees would happen separately and would be based on the budget of the project.

MUSD Governing Board must approve the selection of the construction manager and architect, the fee basis and the guaranteed maximum price.

The evaluation criteria are established in the request for qualifications. “References are very important because K-12 is a pretty small world and the whole construction industry in Arizona is a little bigger,” Rafferty said.

State statute requires a selection committee of five to seven members, who will grade submittals and make a recommendation. The committee membership is required to include a registered architect and a licensed general contractor. The committee is also required to have an SFB representative.

Lopeman said ideally the committee members will be local. She said she reached out to City Manager Rick Horst to seek possible candidates.

“On the bright side, $3.7 million is generous enough to buy a site that can be a comprehensive high school someday.” Mark Rafferty, FMG

Jan. 15, MUSD will host a strategy meeting to include parents, businesses and other community members to discuss the design, look, feel and use of the new school.

“We have to have an amazing compelling vision,” Lopeman said, “but we also have to have a short-term understanding of what the limitations are.”

Rafferty said FMG would like to see MUSD buy and masterplan a site, with the school as the first component and other components phased in.

“We really have to be moving forward on two separate tracks, with and without the bond,” Judd said. “And we have to have a plan to be built with or without the bond on this date.”

Not discussed at Wednesday’s work session but included on the failed bond were maintenance and repair projects like new roofing and heating/air conditioning units.

During the 2017-18 fiscal year, SFB gave MUSD $203,640 for five projects. Three were at the high school for HVAC, one was for plumbing issue at Maricopa Elementary School, and one was for electrical at Desert Wind Middle School.

Board member Patti Coutré would not be surprised if repairs have even higher price tags in years to come. She said those kinds of maintenance issues will increase as the current buildings age. School districts are limited in the amount of contingency funds they are allowed to set aside to plan for inevitable failures. SFB funding is not guaranteed.

With teams ranging from rebuilding to contenders for state tournaments, Maricopa High School is launching its winter sports season this week.

Tayler Riley-Coleman (Photo by Victor Moreno)

Girls’ Basketball

Rashawn Calvert is in her second year of coaching the varsity Rams, coming off a successful 21-9 season that saw them in the 5A playoffs.

While graduating seniors took with them a big chunk of the team’s scoring from last year, juniors and sophomores are stepping up into leadership roles.

“The hard work ethic of this team is what’s going to make us competitive every game,” Calvert said.

Tryouts brought in 45 girls. Calvert said she will have 12 on varsity, with a set 10 on junior varsity and another set 10 for freshmen, and players moving among the three levels.

Among players returning are juniors Brooke Smith, Evone Santiago, Tayler Riley-Coleman and Shakira Gillespie.

“They’re gelling, they’re working things out,” Calvert said. “It’s nice to have players I don’t have to beg to give their all.”

The Rams are strong in chemistry, culture and defense. The coach said they are still discovering individual player strengths as they grow into their roles.

“Last year, they got used to seeing somebody else doing it,” Calver said. “They are getting used to doing it themselves.”

Starting the season with a “phenomenal” Thanksgiving tournament at Desert Edge, Maricopa will play a Christmas tournament in Chula Vista, California, against competition from western states.

“It gives us a different look against different competition and different levels to think about,” Calvert said.

Nov. 29-30           Scorpion Shootout, Desert Edge High School
Dec. 3                    at Apollo                              7 p.m.
Dec. 5                    vs Camelback                      7 p.m.
Dec. 6                    at North Canyon                7 p.m.
Dec. 10                 at Siera Linda                      7 p.m.
Dec. 13                 vs Carl Hayden                    7 p.m.
Dec. 17                 at Marana                             7 p.m.
Dec. 19                 vs Independence                 7 p.m.
Jan. 4                     Talking Stick Resort Arena
Jan. 7                     vs Campo Verde                 7 p.m.
Jan. 9                     vs Notre Dame                   7 p.m.
Jan. 17                   vs Higley                              7 p.m.
Jan. 21                   at Casteel                             7 p.m.
Jan. 22                   at Gilbert                             7 p.m.
Jan. 28                   at Campo Verde                 7 p.m.
Jan. 31                   at Williams Field                7 p.m.
Feb. 4                    at Higley                               7 p.m.
Feb. 7                    vs Casteel                              7 p.m.|
Feb. 11                  vs Gilbert                               7 p.m.

Rudy Ramirez (Photo by Victor Moreno)

Boys’ Basketball

The Maricopa High School boys’ basketball program has a new head coach and a mostly new varsity team.

Paul Gretkierwicz came from Paradise Honors in Surprise, where he was an assistant four years as the team became state contenders in 2A and then 3A. Earlier, he was an assistant under the same coach at Desert Edge in Goodyear. After moving to Ahwatukee last year, he cast about for a school closer to home and found Maricopa.

“I first came here in March, and we had open gyms and workouts, and I got to know some of the kids,” Gretkierwicz said. “We had a really busy June. We played 20 games in June.”

He said he has just three players with varsity experience. There are additions to this year’s squad with proven athleticism in other sports, such as football standout Ilijah Johnson.

“I knew it was kind of a rebuilding program with not a lot of wins in the win column (2-21),” Gretkeirwicz said.

He plans to run four or five guards on the floor, saying their speed and athleticism could make up for lack of height. Where the Rams do have height, there is little experience. He will be focusing on playing pressure defense, too.

Returning players include junior Steven Forrester and seniors Bryan Pick, Josiah Jackson and Brandon Delemos.

“I’m excited about the sophomores,” Gretkeirwicz said. “That sophomore class has a really bright future, and they’re kind of being thrown into the fire. There will be some growing pangs.”

He is pushing a culture of hard work and good habits.

“Every day we talk about the three C’s,” he said. “That’s classroom, community and court. I’m on grades nonstop, and all the students know it. Playing as a team when it comes to basketball, that’s what our values are. The team is bigger than the player.”

Nov. 27 Panthers Hoops Classic, Paradise Honors High School
Dec. 3    vs Apollo                             7 p.m.
Dec. 5    at Camelback                     7 p.m.
Dec. 6    vs North Canyon               7 p.m.
Dec. 10 vs Sierra Linda                   7 p.m.
Dec. 12 at Notre Dame                    7 p.m.
Dec. 13 at Carl Hayden                    7 p.m.
Dec. 17 vs Marana                             7 p.m.
Dec. 19 at Independence                 7 p.m.
Dec. 26 Winter Hoops Shootout, Cactus High School
Jan. 7     at Campo Verde                7 p.m.
Jan. 14   at Williams Field              7 p.m.
Jan. 17 at Higley                               7 p.m.
Jan. 21   vs Casteel                           7 p.m.
Jan. 24   vs Gilbert                           7 p.m.
Jan. 28   vs Campo Verde               7 p.m.
Jan. 31   vs Williams Field              7 p.m.
Feb. 4    vs Higley                             7 p.m.
Feb. 7    at Casteel                             7 p.m.
Feb. 11  at Gilbert                              7 p.m.

Nick Mooney (Photo by Victor Moreno)


A program that sent five wrestlers to the state tournament is growing in numbers. Coach Erick Fierro said his team is “definitely young.”

The one returning wrestler with state experience is sophomore Gabriel Garcia. While only a couple of the seniors participated last year, they may be set up as leaders strictly based on age because it can be difficult for a 15-year-old to jump into a team-leadership role, Fierro said.

The program this year consists of 30 wrestlers. That includes 10 freshmen and 11 sophomores.

“We’re young, but that’s good,” the coach said. “With all the sophomores, we are hopeful for the next few years.”

The lower weights have the most depth for the Rams, though coaches are still analyzing their wrestlers. Nicholas Mooney, for instance, will likely move up a weight class to 182.

“That’s the beauty of wrestling; it can change at any moment,” Fierro said.

While qualifying athletes for state is a great result, he said his focus is to fill up a varsity roster and keep all his wrestlers academically eligible.

“Last year, every one of our kids stayed eligible,” Fierro said. “That’s one of the biggest things I’m proudest of. That’s a great feeling.”

He credits strong support from parents, who keep the kids well-fed during study hall, create fundraisers and cheer on the wrestlers. Their positive attitudes “help kids push through the grind that is wrestling.”

Nov. 26 at Paradise Valley            4 p.m.
Dec. 4    at Campo Verde               4 p.m.
Dec. 6    at Perry (duals) 10 a.m.
Dec. 11 Home meet                         4 p.m.
Dec. 13 Husky Invitational, Horizon
Dec. 18 at Central                            4 p.m.
Dec. 20 at McClintock                    4 p.m.
Jan. 10   Prospector Wrestling Tournament, Apache Junction
Jan. 15   at Willow Canyon            4 p.m.
Jan. 17   Doc Wright Invitational, Winslow
Jan. 22   at McClintock                  4 p.m.
Jan. 23   Home meet                      4 p.m.
Jan. 29   at Horizon                       4 p.m.
Feb. 8    Sectionals
Feb. 13-14    State Tournament

Cassidy Zimmerman (Photo by Victor Moreno)

Girls’ Soccer

A decade ago, Cortney Kellenaers coached the girls’ soccer team at MHS. After 2010, he coached boys’ high school soccer and college soccer and coached club soccer for boys and girls, but he hasn’t been in charge of high school girls since. Until this season.

Saying he was tired of seeing the turnover at the head coach position, Kellenaers agreed to coach both the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams for MHS. The feat has required some shifts in the schedule, playing on the same day at the same school as much as possible.

“And I made sure I have a good JV staff,” he said.

Last season, the girls were 9-10-1 overall and struggled in the 5A San Tan Region. But they come back experienced.

“The core of the group is coming back,” Kellenaers said.

Though they are starting the season with key senior Payson Hacker sidelined by a torn ACL, the Rams want to push farther into the post-season. A key is to keep everyone with the same goal in mind.

“The girls are getting along pretty well,” the coach said. “We have so many freshmen coming in, we’re making sure it doesn’t get all clique-y.”

Other seniors include Saneya Cowing, Cassidy Zimmerman, Charity Miller and Savannah Shelabarger. Stand-out junior Jezelle Magallanes is also back.

Dec. 3    vs McClintock                    6 p.m.
Dec. 5    at Williams Field               4 p.m.
Dec. 7-12             Coyote Classic, Higley
Dec. 17 vs Agua Fria                         4 p.m.
Jan. 7     vs Sunnyside                      6 p.m.
Jan. 9     at Paradise Valley             4 p.m.
Jan. 14   at Willow Canyon              6 p.m.
Jan. 21   at Sunrise Mountain         4 p.m.
Jan. 24   vs Goldwater                      6 p.m.
Jan. 28   vs Campo Verde                5 p.m.
Feb. 4    vs Higley                              6 p.m.
Feb. 7    at Casteel                             4 p.m.
Feb. 10  at Gilbert                             4 p.m.

Asher Miller (Photo by Victor Moreno)

Boys’ Soccer

The MHS boys’ soccer team is regrouping after graduating 12 seniors. This year’s team boasts around 38 players, with 20 on junior varsity.

“We had to bring up a lot of kids, so there are a lot of kids that this is their first year on varsity,” Kellenaers said.

Senior Taylor Russo has been a “solid anchor” at center back since his freshman year. Junior Dakotah Barchus is expected to be an effective utility player. “I can put him anywhere on the field and he’ll be able to be useful.”

Kellenaers said the Rams will be a scrappy team, with impact players available in all grades. Kevin Vasquez was last year as just a freshman.

Last season’s team was 5-14 and was outscored by opponents collectively by 29 goals. So, there is plenty of room to improve.

“A lot of them are excited they made varsity, but the older players are aware they’ve got some work to do,” Kellenaers said.

Gateway Community College, where Kellenaers is an assistant for the men’s soccer program, ended its season in October, and Kellenaers had to jump immediately into the MHS programs.

“There wasn’t a lot of time to prepare,” he said. “But I’m always excited for the challenge.”

Dec. 3    vs McClintock                    4 p.m.
Dec. 5    at Williams Field               6 p.m.
Dec. 7-12             Coyote Classic, Higley
Dec. 17 vs Agua Fria                        6 p.m.
Jan. 7     vs Sunnyside                     4 p.m.
Jan. 9     at Paradise Valley            6 p.m.
Jan. 14   at Willow Canyon            4 p.m.
Jan. 21   at Sunrise Mountain       6 p.m.
Jan. 23   at Goldwater                     4 p.m.
Jan. 28   vs Campo Verde               7 p.m.
Feb. 4    vs Higley                             4 p.m.
Feb. 7    at Casteel                             6 p.m.
Feb. 10  at Gilbert                             6 p.m.

by -
Michael Flood drew individual attention as an MHS lineman. Photo by Victor Moreno

Six Maricopa High School football players and three volleyball players drew notice in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 5A San Tan All-Region voting.

Senior offensive lineman Michael Flood was named First Team.

Defensive back Ilijah Johnson and linebacker Anthony Valenzuela, both seniors, were named Second Team.

On the honorable mention list were juniors Mister Chavis, Patrick Garcia and Tylek Mooney.

In volleyball, junior Shakira Gillespie was named Second Team in 5A San Tan. Honorable mention went to juniors Ashley Brown and Brooke Smith.

Three members of the Buffalo Soldiers of America, led by Arizona chapter President Chaz Jackson spoke to two sessions of students at Maricopa High School on Thursday, sharing the history of the military units comprised of African Americans from 1866 to 1948, when the military was desegregated. The units, primarily comprised of the 9th and 10th cavalries and the 24th and 25th infantries, were in action in the Plains Wars, where they picked up their informal moniker of buffalo soldiers from the Cheyenne, the Johnson County War, Victorio’s War, the Spanish-American War, the Philippines, World War I and World War II. They were stationed at Fort Huachuca for nearly 20 years. Leo Hernandez also spoke about the 201st Fighter Squadron, the Aztec Eagles. In sharing biographies of some outstanding servicemembers, the chapter representatives encouraged the students to talk to their parents and grandparents about their own family histories.

Maricopa High School Marching Rams achieved its best score to date in the AzMBA 3A Championship with its performance of “In the Cards” Saturday at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert.

The competition took place after the Rams had marched in the Veterans Day Parade in Maricopa that morning.

The score of 75.213 placed them ninth out of 24 schools. With higher-scoring bands like Mesa and Queen Creek unable to attend the Grand Championships, MHS qualified for the event Sunday at Mesa Community College. There, they finished 10th with a score of 71.51.

A grand championship judge said, “This year’s edition of the Maricopa Marching Band may be the one of the strongest groups of ambassadors to date.”

The Marching Rams are directed by Ivan Pour and Assistant Director Logan Harper. Colorguard coach is Eliana Araiza, volunteer assistants Dannie Bradley and Alyssa Harper, percussion caption head David Hales and front ensemble instructor Stuart Delaney.


Connor Schrader, shown in a previous competition, made the state finals this week.

Maricopa High School sophomore Connor Schrader debuted in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II State Swimming Championships by bettering his school record times in two events and qualifying for the finals in one.

In the preliminaries, Schrader swam the 100-yard backstroke in 57.9 to finish 13th and earn a spot in the final. He swam the 100-yard freestyle in 50.5 to finish 17th, one place out of making the finals.

In Fridays finals, he swam the 100 backstroke in 57.2, improving his school record again, winning the consolation heat and finishing ninth overall.

Schrader and junior Olivia Byers were the first MHS swimmers ever to qualify for the state championships. Byers was 33rd in the 50-yard freestyle and remained the first alternate.

The swim program was the only MHS sport to qualify athletes for state competition this fall. Coach Laura Logan called it “a great finish to year two of the program.”

From left, Grant Hall, Samantha Bayless, Principal Brian Winter and winner Riley Burke. Photo by Kyle Norby

A freshman inspired by a Scooby-Doo mashup won Maricopa High School’s Red Ribbon Week Art Contest. The theme this year was “Stay Drug Free.” Drawing from a DeviantArt illustration by Darrin Brege placing the Scooby gang in Ghostbusters outfits, Riley Burke added a drug-free message for her winning entry.

In second place was senior Samantha Bayless, and in third was freshman Grant Hall. They all took home cash prizes. Honorable mention went to Kat Tolles, Benea Quintero and Ashley Crider Wallace.

Olivia Byers and Connor Schrader are headed to state competition this week. Photo by Victor Moreno

Two Maricopa High School swimmers have qualified for the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II State Championship Meet.

Sophomore Connor Schrader is ranked 11th in the 100-meter backstroke and 18th in the 100-meter freestyle. Junior Olivia Byers was placed 33rd in the 100 free, making her first alternate.

The top 32 compete.

Preliminaries start Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at the Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa. Finals are Friday.

Schrader and Byers are school record-holders for the Rams’ 2-year-old swimming program.

MHS Rams gather for some final on-field words from the coach after a season-ending loss. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School varsity football team dropped Friday’s game at Gilbert, 35-14, bringing an end to the Rams’ season.

While defense and offense had shining moments throughout the contest, Maricopa could never catch the Tigers, never getting closer than a touchdown.

Junior Tykek Mooney had a busy night as the Rams scored on a 5-yard run and a third-and-12, 50-yard pass. Junior Mister Chavis was back in action and making impressive runs to try to set up scoring opportunities.

“I didn’t call good plays, and we didn’t execute the plays I did call,” head coach Brandon Harris said.

He also volunteered the blame for a disappointing 3-7 season. The Rams were outscored 351-192. Half the competition came against some of the toughest teams in the state, mostly in the San Tan region. Seven of the 10 teams on Maricopa’s schedule qualified for the 5A playoff bracket.

It was a challenging season.

“I’ve learned to keep going even when things aren’t going your way,” senior quarterback Daxton Redfern said. “You have to keep working no matter what happens.”

He said he also learned to be a leader for a young team, “teaching the guys how to put in the work, setting the example.”

Redfern wants to keep playing beyond high school, and Harris said he spoke to his seniors about what they need to do to move forward and play college ball.

“We’ll help those kids get out. Their job isn’t done,” Harris said. “I always tell our seniors they’re supposed to leave this place better than what they found it. We haven’t done that on the record, but I think we’ve done that in terms of the things that are the intangibles that programs need to have sustainability. That’s doing better in the classroom, being better people on school grounds and in the community, and I think that starts to transfer to our younger guys who watch them and see it.”

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Senior Airman Marquice Brown of Maricopa is now part of the Air Force Honor Guard. Submitted photo

By Francis Trast

Senior Airman Marquice Brown is a Maricopa High School AFJROTC alumnus who is currently assigned to Bolling Air Force Base in Anacostia, Maryland, on the firing line of the U.S. Air Force’s Honor Guard. He visited with MHS cadets on a recent visit.

As part of his Air Force duties, he works all through the week. When not on assignment, he is going to the gym or attending drill practices. Brown said being in ROTC four years greatly helped him with his military bearing and precision in drill, which is why he was noticed in basic training and invited into the Honor Guard.

“The job is great, and once you get in you’re gonna [really] love it,” he said. “But you have to be ready to adapt to [your new role]. Take your job seriously, but at the same time, have fun.”

Brown had a few words of advice for anyone going into the military. Firstly, he said to go in with a purpose. If you don’t know why you’re in the military – any branch – then you shouldn’t be there, he said. He also emphasized the importance of being physically prepared; being in shape before you go into the military will make basic training much easier.

His third and final piece of wisdom was that basic training is what you make of it; for those with a positive attitude going in, the experience will be exciting and educational. Brown had been taking a dance class at MHS and therefore had been fairly physically active when he enlisted.

Brown related the contrast in reality from his expectations, starting by explaining what most people expect when they think of basic training — an idea of having your face in the dirt, being broken down, being solitary and alone, and an absolute authoritarian rule of existing within the unit with the sole purpose of doing what you’re told. Brown says all of these things are half-truths; it isn’t quite so authoritarian as people assume, and the instructors are there, more than anything, to help.

Brown also recounted some of his most memorable moments: marching in the Macy’s Parade; promotions and retirements performed in the Hall of Heroes; and the active duty for Prisoner of War (POW) funerals.

Daxton Redfern (1), backed by Mister Chavis, against Casteel Oct. 25. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

At times exhibiting their strongest play of the season, Maricopa High School’s varsity football team came up short against Casteel Friday night in a game that could bring new challenges to next week’s finale.

Casteel won 41-27, leaving the Rams with a must-win against Gilbert if they wish for a chance to make the playoffs.

“I thought we had a good game plan. I thought our kids were focused,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “We had a good week of practice. I’m proud of them. They came out and played real hard.”

Senior running back Mister Chavis suffered a blow to the head that may have been a concussion. If so, his ability to play Friday is tenuous. Junior running back Steven Forester definitely won’t be playing against Gilbert – he was ejected in the first half after making a nice run to the red zone but responded with over-exuberance that drew three penalty flags.

“We’re building something here. We just need more bodies, and we don’t have them,” Harris said. “When we lose a guy, we don’t have the depth to fill in like teams that have 100 kids. So that’s kind of tough.”

Maricopa scored first after Dominic Hall intercepted Casteel to set up quarterback Daxton Redfern’s touchdown pass to Jackson Lindseth. However, the Colts answered on their next drive. Redfern’s 27-yard pass to Ilijah Johnson put the Rams ahead again.

“He had a great night tonight,” Harris said of Redfern. “He played really, really well. He’s grown up as a quarterback. He never had a varsity game ever before this season.”

Casteel scored back-to-back touchdowns for a 21-14 lead at halftime. Despite a 19-yard touchdown pass from Redfern and a five-yard rushing touchdown by Anton Avington Jr., Maricopa could not catch up again.

“The defense played great at times,” Harris said. “Our secondary didn’t hold up the way we needed them to, just not closing out on receivers.”

Maricopa will still be short-handed as it tries to qualify for the playoffs in a road game at Gilbert. The Rams also hope to benefit from the open division that could remove three or more of 5A’s top teams from the bracket.

Forester wasn’t alone in being thrown off the field in a tense game. Saying they didn’t need any help calling the game, officials tossed MHS Principal Brian Winter and Athletic Director Jake Neill off the premises in the second half (and even threatened to “call the cops”) after they complained about a late hit on Johnson.

Update: This story has been corrected to reflect the corrected spelling of Ilijah Johnson’s name.