Kaliya Johnson travels far and wide for a good hockey game. Actually, the seventh grader who attends Kyrene Aprende Middle School in Chandler also goes the distance just for practice.
For the second straight season, Johnson returned to Anaheim, Calif., once or twice a month to practice and play with the Anaheim Lady Ducks 12-and-younger USA Hockey team.
“I promised her she could do it (return to Anaheim) and I’m keeping my promise,” said Kelli Johnson, Kaliya’s mother.
Last season, all the travel paid off as Johnson and her teammates won the bronze medal at the national championship.
This season it paid off with dividends. With nearly 70 percent of the medalists returning, the Lady Ducks won all six games at nationals on their way to the title April 1 in San Jose, Calif., outscoring their opponents 23-5.
Johnson played in every game, scoring two goals along with three assists.
And don’t let that pretty face fool you. Her theme song could be Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box” as the 5-foot-2 defenseman collected 7½ penalty minutes during the tournament.
“She plays tough,” Kelli said.
Kaliya has found a team closer to home, even though she is the only girl on the squad. She also plays with the Phoenix Firebirds Pee Wee A team of the Desert Youth Hockey Association.
“The boys treat her well and respect her, but boys on the opposing teams sometimes get upset when they see they got beat by a girl,” Kelli said.
They shouldn’t feel too bad. Kaliya is a “four-year” 12-U player, having been on that squad since she was 8.
Next year, along with about half of her Lady Ducks teammates, she will be playing on the 14-U team.
And once again Kelli will either wave goodbye to her daughter from the security gate at the airport or spend the weekend on the road in Anaheim.
“I do it because she loves the sport.”
Sounds like ...
Scrums, rucks, trys.
Sounds like a foreign language doesn’t it?
But there are a few high school athletes in the area who know exactly what those words mean.
And they are focused on this weekend’s high school “state” tournament which will be played at Gilbert Mesquite High School.
“Most high schools do not have rugby teams, but there are several clubs in Tempe, Mesa and Scottsdale that have some great teams and lots of guys who are willing to attempt this outrageous sport,” Joan Walmsley said.
Walmsley’s son Will is a member of the Scottsdale U19 Rugby Club coached by John Lockett.
Lockett, a home builder, has been involved in rugby for 25 years as a player and a coach.
“I do it because when my son tried out with 85 other kids for high school baseball, 60 kids got cut and had nothing to do,” Lockett said. “So I started rugby at (Scottsdale) Desert Mountain High School.”
The league has been around for seven years. There are six teams: Mesquite, Avondale Westview, Scottsdale and Mesa in the Valley along with teams from Tucson and El Paso, Texas.
Mesquite, the first team in the state, and according to Lockett a powerhouse, is made up of players from the school.
“They are 6-0 and historically has been the strongest team,” Lockett said.
“Their team is made up of their junior varsity football team and they are just bigger and deeper.”
Most of the players from the Scottsdale squad come from Desert Mountain, Notre Dame Prep, Horizon and Saguaro high schools.
“We will not turn away anyone who wants to play as long as they meet the age requirement,” Lockett said.
He also has his own eligibility requirement where grades are concerned in conjunction with his players’ parents.
Now as far as the language ...
Visit the Web site at arizonayouthrugby.com/template.php to find out more.
Several youthful shooters from the East Valley earned state titles and qualified to represent Arizona at upcoming national championships at the Scholastic Clay Target Program Arizona Commissioner’s Cup Sporting Clays Championship held March 31 at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix.
The program, for students in grades 12 and under, has been called the “Little League” of shooting sports with more than 10,000 students in at least 40 states expected to compete in it this year.
Skeet and sporting clays national titles will be decided July 13-15 at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio. Trap national championships are slated for Aug. 5-7 at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Ill.
Some shooters may be selected to attend an Olympic development camp in August in Colorado Springs, Colo.
In the varsity division (grades 9 to 12), first place went to the Ben Avery Clay Crushers team of Kimberly Jo Peters of Surprise, Beau J. Bonner of Cave Creek and Nicholas Warren, also of Cave Creek. The trio hit 232 out of 300 targets.
In the junior varsity division (also grades 9 to 12), the Red Mountain Terminators hit 234 out of 300 targets for first place.
The team was composed of Kyle Wandelear of Queen Creek, Patrick Wood of Scottsdale and Kaitlyn C. Borie of Phoenix.
The runners-up were the Ben Avery team of Bradley W. Barber of Glendale, Brett Hoepner of Cave Creek and Lane Shank of Phoenix, who hit 10 fewer targets.
Red Mountain also produced champions in the intermediate division (grades 6-8) with Wesley Borie, Kyle Johnson and Ryan Kelly Bollinger, all of Phoenix who travel to the Mesa-based shooting range to practice, claiming first place hitting 231 targets.
The trio of Hayden Jorde of Queen Creek, Kyle Joseph Sutter of Apache Junction and Christopher Vansickle of Glendale captured third place (214).
And the Red Mountain Target Terminator rookies (grades 5 and under) — Zachery A. Clark of Phoenix, Stephen Fuller of Phoenix and Cody Kime of Chandler placed second hitting 118 targets.
Know someone who deserves mention in East Valley Victories? E-mail or call Billye Jill Paulson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6862.