There is no other sporting community like Ahwatukee Foothills in Arizona, or maybe anywhere.
The people of Ahwatukee, and those lucky enough to cover it (two thumbs pointing at this guy), have a great sports scene and enthusiasm that should never ever be taken for granted.
Where else can you find a running scene, led by Susan Loken, that have so many athletes competing in national marathons and Ironmans, a community that has tremendous support for Little League baseball/softball, and club sports like lacrosse and rugby and youth football teams that make national events?
Maybe it is why it is also a spot where many professional athletes, active and retired, choose to live so they can take advantage of the plethora of golf opportunities while sitting at the base of a mountain where there are miles of hiking and biking trails.
Then there are the high schools where one of the state’s best rivalries take center stage between Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista.
And it’s not a rivalry just because of the close proximity, but also because usually one of the teams is competing for state titles.
It’s special place and 2013 was a special year. Here are some of the highlights:
A Pride-ful uprising
The season started in a place where whatever happens there is supposed to stays there. Only it didn’t. What Mountain Pointe did to Nevada power Bishop Gorman was televised nationally and was the impetus to finishing No. 6 in the final MaxPreps’ national poll.
The Pride finished 14-0 in a convincing manner with the closest margin of victory being 10 points as they fulfilled senior Natrell Curtis’ preseason promise to get their ring. The offense was multifaceted, the defense was as physical and quick as any this state has seen according to opposing coaches and the coaching staff made all the right decisions to give the Mountain Pointe its first state football title.
DV cross country knocks off Gators
Dani Jones set the tempo and the youngins followed.
Desert Vista stopped Xavier’s six-year reign as the Division I state champions with Jones, a junior, winning the individual title. It could lead to a string of championships as four of the top seven competitors were freshmen.
Jones also set an Arizona standard after she is believed to have the highest ever finish in the 10th annual Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore., earning All-American status after finishing 15th overall.
Comings and goings
So many programs saw change this year, especially at Mountain Pointe, where volleyball coach Fred Mann left after 20 years, athletic director Ian Moses stepped down along with turnover in the cross country and boys basketball programs.
Desert Vista was a little more steady, although but had the most controversial one with the girls basketball dysfunction that happened in January.
It has worked out for the best as the Thunder enter 2014 as the favorite to win the Division I state title.
Standing out and on top
Mountain Pointe senior golfer Ben Harden and Pride senior badminton player Hashimoto Kiyoko followed Jones’ lead in winning individual state titles this fall, but there were others as well.
Desert Vista’s Alex Bambic won his third state wrestling title in February, Jones won two other distance titles in track in May, Mountain Pointe’s Paul Lucas foreshadowed his role on the football team by tearing up the track for two state titles and others found their way to the top of the podium.
Making a splash
The Thunder girls swimming team won the state title over Xavier, which had won 14 straight. It was a great mix of talented seniors, a great freshmen class and plenty of depth in between.
Making a splash (run and ride) II
Ahwatukee resident Russ Brandt finished the Ironman Kona in 9 hours and 27 minutes, which was a personal best, made him one of the 200 fastest men in the world.
Several Ahwatukee Foothills residents were involved in the Boston Marathon in April that was marred by two bombs going off near the finish line, killing three and injuring more than 140, but managed to escape the senseless act of violence.
That doesn’t mean it didn’t leave an indelible impression.
“I was getting myself together and heading back to my friends who were standing across from the second bomb,” said Nicole Armbrust, a Tempe resident who is a physical therapist at Spooner Physical Therapy in Ahwatukee. “It was noise you will never forget. I just remember looking at the man next to me and trying to figure out what happened.”
“You could feel (the blast) in your feet and chest. People started screaming and running in the streets. You didn’t know if it was like 9/11 where there was going to be a building falling so everyone was doing what they could to get away.”
There are so many things that have happened over the last 365 days and it’s hard to encapsulate all of it in 800 words or so. Those were just some of the highlights and there are sure to be even more in 2014.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com.