May 25, 2005 - What does the future hold for the senior athletes of the Northwest and Foothills?
For most students, making the switch from high school to college is a difficult step. For others, transforming from a Tiger or Falcon into a Saluki or a Wildcat can be as arduous as it is confusing.
Such will be the task for dozens of senior athletes graduating this month from the eight Northwest and Foothills area high schools. Whether success on the high school level will translate into prosperity on the fields, courts and diamonds of college remains to be seen.
Although the University of Arizona and Pima Community College are a popular destination for many, others will land far away from the nest in which they were raised - in more than a dozen different states.
Some will play under the backdrop of the Ivy League; others will use a two-year junior college to propel them to a four-year program.
The biggest name, and by no coincidence the biggest build (6 feet, 5 inches, 285 pounds), heading off for the academia of college is Daniel Borg of Ironwood Ridge High School. The most decorated football player to hail from the Northwest in several years, Borg signed a letter-of-intent in February to play football for the University of Arizona in the fall.
Possibly joining Borg in English 101 or Mind, Matter and God (depending on the pro baseball draft) will be a host of former Northwest and Foothills athletes including Jordan Powell and T.J. Steele of Canyon Del Oro High School and John James of Catalina Foothills.
Some students will be putting on more than just a uniform, they'll be adorning the fatigues of the armed forces. Jessie Ingraham, a triple sport athlete (cross country, basketball and track and field) will fall in line at the Air Force Academy.
Alicia Hunolt, who played softball for Ironwood Ridge, will do the same, only for the Coast Guard Academy.
About 1,200 miles east from Tucson, as the Nighthawk flies, will be the new home for Ironwood Ridge tennis sensation Torrie Browning, who will attend Wichita State on an athletic scholarship. The Shocker-to-be was anything but a shocker in the Class 4A tennis state tournament the past two seasons, taking top honors in Arizona both years.
Browning's state rival, BreAnn Cheung, will take her racquet even farther from her Catalina Foothills alma mater to the University of Connecticut.
Another Falcon sensation who will be staying in the Grand Canyon State is Kate Engelbrecht who will lace up her sneakers for the women's hoops of Arizona State.
From Marana, Erin Parsons's hard work on the basketball court and in the rodeo pen has earned her a scholarship to New Mexico State. Joining her as the only other scholarship athlete from the Marana class of 2005 is Janel Chavez, who will head to PCC to play soccer.
Others who will be making the trek out of state include football players Ryan McGinty of Mountain View, who is Columbia-bound, Ryan Crawford of IRHS, who heads North to South Dakota State and Kyra Thompson who leaves Foothills to play volleyball for Rutgers University in New Jersey.
From Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, the numbers are weighted heavily toward the UA and PCC. In the fall, seven of the class 2A school's 16 senior student athletes will attend the UA and five will head to PCC - none, however, on an athletic scholarship.
Attempting to walk-on to the UA's women's volleyball team are Audrey Bockerstette and Marti Larriva of CDO's girls volleyball squad. If they make it, they'll join former Dorado Bre Ladd, one of the top college players in the country.
For every student-athlete that gets a full or partial ride to the school of their choice, there are others like Daniel Finnegan of CDO. Finnegan did not receive any scholarships, despite excelling in three sports at CDO.
Finnegan was the only male senior to play three sports in 2004-05 at CDO. As a Dorado, Finnegan played wide receiver and defensive back for his uncle - CDO football head coach Pat Nugent - was the boy's soccer team captain and most valuable player and a state qualifier in the 110-meter high hurdles for the school's track and field team.
This spring, Finnegan was named as the Dorados' student-athlete-of-the-year by the athletic staff of CDO. The honor compliments the Coaches Award he received from the Dorados' football staff in the fall.
A year removed from the gridiron of CDO, Finnegan will head to the UA, with his sights on a degree in business and the jumpstart on a career in sports management.
What his college career won't have is a dedication to a varsity sport.
"I've been playing for four years now," said Finnegan, "I'm kind of burnt out."
The competitive flame can't be extinguished permanently, however.
"I don't know what it will be," said the senior, who has been prodded by others to try to walk on to the school's track and field team, "but I know I'll want to stay active."
Staying active and playing a varsity sport are two entirely different things though.
For the non-scholarship athlete, if a walk-on position to one of its varsity programs is not an option, most turn toward club sports. At the UA, students looking to keep in shape, compete or continue to strive for that past glory can take part in any of the recreation department's 48 intramural sports or from its 32 club teams.
"We try to put a variety of things out there and see what happens," said Mirum Washington-White, Assistant Director, Intramural Sports and Special Programs for the UA Student Recreation Center.
More than 12,000 UA students participated in intramurals alone in 2004.
"For the most part we get the average student who participated in something in high school and still wants to stay along the same lines," said Washington-White, who added that many of the students who play intramurals are kids who came off the bench in basketball or was an average lineman in high school and still have the need to compete.
Intramural sports range from flag football to spades card games. Basketball is far and away the biggest sport the program offers with more than 2,000 men and women competing on 250 teams. As Finnegan and company matriculate in the fall, they'll have even more sports to choose from when inner-tube water polo and swim meets are added to the rec center's repertoire.
With the numbers steadily on the rise, the UA will propose a bill this autumn for funding of an extension to its facilities-following suit with Arizona State who is proposing a similar plan.