Criticism, support follow Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury after postseason loss

  • Slug: Sports-Cardinals Obit. 900 words.
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By Cole Bradley
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Despite a woeful ending that led to criticism of quarterback Kyler Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury, voices of support for the Arizona Cardinals’ most high profile figures also followed a postseason loss to the Los Angeles Rams. 

“I think things have trended in the right direction,” offensive linemen D.J. Humphries said Tuesday. “But it’s definitely hard to see things end the way that they did.”

The final whistle on Monday night couldn’t have come sooner for the Cardinals. Continue reading “Criticism, support follow Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury after postseason loss”

‘You can’t be a hockey player’: England’s Brendan Perlini, Liam Kirk find success across the pond

  • Slug: Sports-UK Hockey Players, 1,154 words.
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By Savannah Nugent
Cronkite News

TUCSON – Any questions about the growth of hockey in England can be answered by examining the sport’s presence in Arizona.

Think of Liam Kirk, a left wing and center for the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners. Or Brendan Perlini, the former Coyotes forward who is now with the Edmonton Oilers.

“Hockey in England is growing,” Kirk said. Continue reading “‘You can’t be a hockey player’: England’s Brendan Perlini, Liam Kirk find success across the pond”

From bingo to bocce: Unified Sports, Special Olympics step up for people with intellectual disabilities

  • Slug: Sports-Special Olympics Arizona, 1,000 words.
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By Mary Grace Grabill
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – At times, Jacob Cohen, 20, felt displaced from his community. He would stay home all day, had few friends and kept to himself.

Living with autism made Cohen’s days challenging. Then Unified Sports entered his life.

“Jacob has been able to meet other adults like himself and make some new friends,” his father, Travis Cohen, said. “The Special Olympics also taught him about being part of a team and keeping his commitments to others.” Continue reading “From bingo to bocce: Unified Sports, Special Olympics step up for people with intellectual disabilities”

They paved paradise, put up a parking lot: Valley racing fans mourn closing of dirt tracks

  • Slug: Sports-Dirt Tracks Closing, 1,860 words.
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By Nick Zeller-Singh
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The Arizona dirt track racing scene has a legacy seven decades old. The state’s first large race was held in 1951, when Manzanita Park featured an event on a one-quarter mile track. More than 3,900 fans watched Roe Mounts drive his 1933 Ford Coupe to victory.

This rich history is at the risk of making a dangerously long pit stop as dirt tracks that were once popular family gatherings as well as stepping stones to NASCAR success are struggling to survive.

“You drive by 35th Avenue and Broadway and see a parking lot and not somewhere where you spent your childhood,” Steve Bitting, a Valley Hobby Stock driver, said about Manzanita closing in 2009. “Some of those people only went to that racetrack so you lose friends some friends and family members.” Continue reading “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot: Valley racing fans mourn closing of dirt tracks”

Pride of Navajo Nation: Diné College works to rebuild rodeo program amid the pandemic

  • Slug: Sports-Navajo Nation Rodeo School, 1,239 words.
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By Dylan Wilhelm
Cronkite News

TSAILE – Far from the red rocks of Sedona and the bright lights of Phoenix sits a small college in the heart of the Navajo Nation. In Tsaile, Diné College has served as a higher education institution for the Navajo people for over 50 years.

A part of its identity is a rodeo program rooted in success and tradition. Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it has taken a major hit, but a top-ranked bull rider and a world champion coach are trying to return the school to its status as one of the premier programs on the college rodeo landscape.

Continue reading “Pride of Navajo Nation: Diné College works to rebuild rodeo program amid the pandemic”

Flipping the script: ASU gymnastics team eyes bid to NCAA Championship

  • Slug: Sports-ASU Gymnastics, 583 words.
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By Abby Sharpe
Cronkite News

TEMPE – When the Arizona State gymnastics team held its annual intrasquad scrimmage in December, the maroon team beat gold by the slimmest of margins – just two-hundredths of a point.

It felt like a win.

The final scores for both sides suggested a strong, competitive ASU squad. But after the scrimmage, coach Jay Santos said what the gymnasts have “been doing in practice is stronger than what we showed.” Continue reading “Flipping the script: ASU gymnastics team eyes bid to NCAA Championship”

Spencer Sanders leads Oklahoma State to Fiesta Bowl win with guidance from Valley’s Tim Rattay

  • Slug: Sports-Fiesta Bowl Game, 700 words.
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By Edwin Perez
Cronkite News

GLENDALE – A comeback led by junior quarterback Spencer Sanders, who threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 125, powered Oklahoma State to a 37-35 victory over Notre Dame in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl Saturday.

It was a performance that reflected the best season of his career, one assisted by a familiar name to Arizona: Tim Rattay.

Rattay, an eight-year NFL veteran who played at Desert Vista High School and Scottsdale Community College, is the first quarterbacks coach who has spent two seasons with Sanders during his time at Oklahoma State.

Continue reading “Spencer Sanders leads Oklahoma State to Fiesta Bowl win with guidance from Valley’s Tim Rattay”

Game on: In college postseason defined by upheaval, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State set for Fiesta Bowl

  • Slug: Sports-Fiesta Bowl Preview 700 words.
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By Edwin Perez
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – In a postseason defined by COVID testing, coaching changes, transfer portals and general upheaval, the Notre Dame and Oklahoma State football teams welcome a familiar site: the 51st edition of the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

The game, scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at State Farm Stadium, pits a coach – Notre Dame’s Marcus Freeman – hired just four weeks ago against one – Mike Gundy – who has logged 17 seasons in Stillwater.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be back down here. … What a beautiful city, what a beautiful environment,” said Freeman, who competed in this bowl three times as a Fighting Irish player, including the 2007 title game loss to Florida. “We’re an excited football team for this opportunity to play a really, really good Oklahoma State team.” Continue reading “Game on: In college postseason defined by upheaval, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State set for Fiesta Bowl”

Kurt Warner’s biopic hits theaters on heels of coaching son at Brophy

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By Ruby Arora
Special for Cronkite News

CHANDLER – In mid-September, as Brophy College Preparatory prepared to take the field at Basha High School, the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach surveyed the landscape.

“It’s just a football game,” Kurt Warner said. “People take it too seriously.”

For those who love the sport, it’s hard not to, and that includes Brophy quarterback Elijah “EJ” Warner, who later passed for 180 yards and a touchdown but saw his team lose 37-12. Continue reading “Kurt Warner’s biopic hits theaters on heels of coaching son at Brophy”

Unlevel pitch: The path to professional soccer is tougher for girls than boys

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Eds: An earlier version of this story misstated the status of a player’s lawsuit against the National Women’s Soccer League in the 14th graf. An agreement was reached in that suit in August. The story below has been corrected, but clients who used previous versions are asked to run the correction found here.

By Taiwo Adeshigbin
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – As early as age 4, Julianna Palacios’ speed and savvy footwork made her a standout on her co-ed soccer team. She was similar in size to her peers, but there was no way to miss the short, curly haired girl who darted past her mostly male opponents.

Even after a bad touch, Julianna could still beat the boys to the ball, her former coach Daniel Espinoza said.

“She’s so good, she could probably still keep up with the boys – even though they have testosterone, all those changes – the sad part is, nobody goes to boys games to recruit girls,” Espinoza said. Continue reading “Unlevel pitch: The path to professional soccer is tougher for girls than boys”

CORRECTION to Dec. 15 story on Kim Cota-Robles

EDS: Clients who used a Cronkite News story slugged Sports-Latina PA Announcer that moved Wednesday, Dec. 15, under a PHOENIX dateline are asked to run the following correction. The error occurred in the fifth graf of the original. A corrected version of the story has been posted here.

PHOENIX – A Dec. 15 Cronkite News story about Tucson Roadrunners public address announcer Kim Cota-Robles misstated the nickname of the former Phoenix International Hockey League affiliate. The correct nickname is “Roadrunners.”

Despite football’s popularity among Hispanic Americans, participation rates remain low

  • Slug: Sports-Hispanics Missing in Football, 2300 words
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By Ian Garcia
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – During JR Alcantar’s time as football coach at Cesar Chavez High School, he frequently watched players miss practice. The need to work outside the home to help support families was common at a place where more than 65 percent of enrolled students are Hispanic.

Getting them noticed by colleges? An even bigger challenge.

“It’s hard for them to get recruited because they don’t have the access to get recruited through hiring an extra recruiter or even understanding at home,” said Alcantar, now an assistant at Canyon View High in Waddell. “At Cesar Chavez, we gave our kids cell phones and gave them a hotspot so that the majority of them could have access at home to use a computer.”

It is one reason the popularity of the sport among Hispanic Americans doesn’t translate to participation on the field at all levels. Continue reading “Despite football’s popularity among Hispanic Americans, participation rates remain low”

Brains and brawn: Embry-Riddle women’s soccer team excels on, off field

  • Slug: Sports-Embry-Riddle Soccer, 670 words.
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By  Hannah Bronkema
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – It is known for producing an impressive collection of alumni, from rocket scientists, astronauts and highly regarded military figures, including Scott O’Grady, the F-16 pilot whose rescue during the Bosnian War was turned into a movie.

Now Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott is known for something else: its women’s soccer team.

Not only did the Eagles advance to the first round of the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship, it landed six players on CoSIDA’s District 4 Academic All-District team, an honor that culled athletes from Canada and 16 states ranging from Texas to Hawaii. Continue reading “Brains and brawn: Embry-Riddle women’s soccer team excels on, off field”

Kim Cota-Robles breaking barriers as Latina PA announcer for Tucson Roadrunners

  • Slug: Sports-Latina PA Announcer, 1,620 words.
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Eds: An earlier version of this story misstated the nickname of the former Phoenix International Hockey League affiliate in the fifth graf. The correct name is “Roadrunners.” The story below has been corrected, but clients who used previous versions are asked to run the correction found here.

By  Hannah Bronkema
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Although Kim Cota-Robles is not the first woman to serve as a public address announcer for a North American professional hockey team, she is believed to be the only Latina full-time PA announcer in the sport’s pro history.

This season is her first, and she is one of two announcers employed by the Tucson Roadrunners, the Arizona Coyotes’ top minor league affiliate. It is a franchise very much tuned into the Hispanic community. The Coyotes’ Xavier Gutierrez is the NHL’s first Latino team president and CEO and has said he iss interested in more consistently courting the 43 percent of the Tucson community that identifies as Latino or Hispanic. Continue reading “Kim Cota-Robles breaking barriers as Latina PA announcer for Tucson Roadrunners”

‘At the tip of the iceberg’: Cornhole (yes, cornhole) finds international stage as it continues to grow

  • Slug: Sports-Rise of Cornhole, 2,000 words.
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By  Ian Garcia
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – If any moment in this sport’s ascent turned heads, it was a weekend in August of 2017, when tournament competition on ESPN2 attracted better ratings than Major League Baseball on TBS and FS1, and the final stage of the Tour de France on NBCSN.

The sport? Cornhole.

While some may view it as a simple backyard activity – where competitors throw bags filled with corn or resin at a raised board with a hole in the far end – cornhole has grown and attempted to stake its claim as a legitimate sport over recent years. Continue reading “‘At the tip of the iceberg’: Cornhole (yes, cornhole) finds international stage as it continues to grow”

Suns guard Chris Paul gives HBCUs a national stage with tournament at Footprint Center

  • Slug: Sports-HBCU Challenge Photo Essay, 211 words.
  • 7 photos available.

By Harrison Zhang
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – It is a familiar sight to see Chris Paul sporting athletic wear from HBCUs. His advocacy for Historically Black Colleges and Universities continued recently at Footprint Center where he hosted the Boost Mobile HBCU Challenge.

“I’m so excited for the chance to give these players the opportunity to experience something not usually available to HBCU student-athletes and compete on a national stage,” said Paul in a news release.

Hampton, Norfolk State, Morgan State and Grambling State faced off in a round robin format at the Suns Arena with Paul in attendance. The first day’s slate of games were carried on ESPN 2 and ESPNU. Continue reading “Suns guard Chris Paul gives HBCUs a national stage with tournament at Footprint Center”

Rez ball in Chinle: Navajo Nation community rebounds after pandemic takes toll

  • Slug: Sports-Rez Ball Return, 1,973 words.
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By Gabrielle Ducharme
Cronkite News

CHINLE – Shaun Martin’s office sits at the front corner of Chinle High School, down the street from the Navajo Nation hospital that serves his community. It looks onto Highway 191, and during the throes of the pandemic, it was a window into the state of his city.

Every 20 minutes, an ambulance would be departing,” Martin said. “It was very real.”

These days, the wailing of sirens has been replaced by the bouncing of basketballs. Rez ball is back and the community is rebounding. Continue reading “Rez ball in Chinle: Navajo Nation community rebounds after pandemic takes toll”

‘Cars are not supposed to jump and fly’: They do at Nitro Rallycross debut in Arizona

  • Slug: Sports-Nitro Rallycross, 761 words.
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By Nick Zeller Singh
Cronkite News

CHANDLER – The high-flying jumps are dramatic, the turns unexpected. Nitro Rallycross, a new racing series featuring innovative courses, recently unveiled its unique format at Wild Horse Pass.

“Our biggest pitch is to see the excitement and things cars are not supposed to do,” said James Lavanway, a show car program manager. “Cars are not supposed to jump and fly. Travis has opened up that to the general public.”

That’s Travis Pastrana, a famed motorsports competitor and stunt performer who is the creative force behind Nitro Rallycross, or NRX. The sport’s stop in Arizona was the third event of a five-stop cross country tour that has attracted some big names. Continue reading “‘Cars are not supposed to jump and fly’: They do at Nitro Rallycross debut in Arizona”

Distance swimming and dim sum: ASU’s Gordon Mason takes journey from Hong Kong to Tempe

  • Slug: Sports-Gordon Mason Swimmer, 3,150 words.
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By Ian Garcia
Cronkite News

TEMPE – It is no secret that the Arizona State swimming and diving program has welcomed a collection of international recruits, with athletes hailing from Ireland, Switzerland, France and Australia.

However, perhaps no swimmer had to cover more distance – both in and out of competition – than redshirt junior Gordon Mason.

“I wouldn’t go back and change a thing,” Mason said.

For good reason. It has shaped him into the person he is today: an accomplished swimmer who recently earned an invitation to the 2022 NCAA Championships in Atlanta, and a passionate cook whose creations have found a home on social media. Continue reading “Distance swimming and dim sum: ASU’s Gordon Mason takes journey from Hong Kong to Tempe”

Soaring to new heights: Benjamin seeing field, finding traction in second season with Cardinals

  • Slug: Sports-Cardinals Benjamin, 840 words.
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By Mac Friday
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Throughout much of the 2020 NFL season, Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t optimistic about the progress of rookie running back Eno Benjamin, who struggled to adjust to the demands and pressures that come with the professional game. The young running back, drafted in the seventh round, contributed on special teams and in practice exclusively as he was unable to break through to in-game reps at running back.

That all changed when the former Arizona State standout showed up to training camp in the summer. His focus, attention levels and commitment provided a springboard for Benjamin’s success.

“(He was struggling) the entire year (in 2020),” Kingsbury told reporters after the Cardinals Week Nine win over the 49ers. “He came back a different guy. From Day One and training camp on, and even when we had a couple of weeks with the players here, you could just tell there’s a different type of focus, different type of attention to detail and the physicality he showed on special teams has been tremendous along with his physicality in the run game.” Continue reading “Soaring to new heights: Benjamin seeing field, finding traction in second season with Cardinals”