Northern Arizona's spring<br>athletes certainly challenged<br>
Cold and windy weather during baseball and softball games. Non-paved track ovals. Trips to games lasting hours and hours.
The high school athlete in northern Arizona does not have it easy. For four years now, I've covered sports for Williams and Grand Canyon. And every spring, there seems to be no relief for our baseball and softball players, track athletes and for the past two years at Williams, golfers.
Playing on sports team in the Phoenix area and back in the Midwest, I don't remember competing in such conditions as must be endured here. Sure, we had poor conditions, but those were isolated incidents. It's a part of life in northern Arizona.
Take the track team at Grand Canyon. They have no legitimate track surface for practice. The weight people have no discus or shot put rings. We can't even have any home meets.
Track is near and dear to my heart, probably because of the weekly individual challenges it presented. Every week when I interview Grand Canyon coach Anne Phillips about the most recent meet, it's disheartening to hear about the poor weather, long road trips and injuries, which I believe would not be as common if there was a decent place for the kids to practice.
In the Midwest, for example, there's a town about every 10 miles down the road. And in each of those towns, you'll find a nice little school. Most of those schools will have paved track ovals.
During track season, the various towns will have an annual meet. Each of those meets offer medals and ribbons for top finishers.
Receiving medals and ribbons at track meets seems to be a luxury in northern Arizona. Some meets don't have medals at all. Others that do award medals and ribbons only go out to the first three places.
Track just doesn't seem to have much of a chance in this area as far as recognition goes. It's a tribute to the athletes at Grand Canyon and Williams who do persevere and shoot for a chance at a state track meet medal or a school record.
Baseball and softball teams also have their challenges. Spring practice almost always begins in the gymnasium. Batting consists of a pitching machine in a cage off to one side of the gym. Outfielders can't take fly balls and infielders find ground balls not acting the same on a gym floor as it does on an actual outside diamond.
Williams and Grand Canyon both field good baseball teams every year. The Vikings are a mainstay in the state playoffs and should be there again this year. The Phantoms find themselves in this tough 1A conference every year with the likes of Joseph City and Bagdad.
I think Grand Canyon would have a better shot at making the state playoffs if they competed in Class 2A. In fact, how about it athletic director? Petition up to Class 2A next time around and play in the league with Williams.
The WHS softball team is a proven winner each year. The Lady Vikes will he headed to state again. Grand Canyon has struggled in softball since the sport's inception.
The Vikings also have a golf team. The school just might have a future professional golfer on its roster, you never know.
I take my hat off to these northern Arizona athletes of spring. On top of all the adverse conditions, the student-athletes also must maintain a certain grade-point average to even play sports.
Those who succeed on the field and in the classroom should feel very good about themselves. Juggling athletics and academics is a great way to prepare for the real world.
(Brad Fuqua is editor of the Grand Canyon News).