Southern Arizona has produced a plethora of talented high school athletes through the years, some who went on to professional and Olympic careers. This list is the best of the best based on their dominance during their high school years.
• Fred Enke, Tucson High, 1940s: Multitalented athlete was the brightest star of the Badgers’ glory years, starring in football, basketball and baseball and leading the Badgers to eight state team titles.
• Joe Batiste, Tucson High, 1930s: Track legend and football star set a hurdles record that stood for years.
• Michael Bates, Amphi, 1980s: Nationally ranked hurdler and sprinter and a Parade magazine All-American in football.
• Rodney Peete, Sahuaro, 1980s: Record-setting quarterback after being all-star wide receiver, point guard on state title basketball team, pitched and won state title game in baseball as sophomore.
• Dannie Jackson, Santa Rita, 1970s: Future world-class decathlete excelled in football, basketball and track for the Eagles.
• Sam Khalifa, Sahuaro, 1980s: Picked No. 7 overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1982, he is the highest local prep selection in the draft.
• (tie) Sean Elliott, Cholla, 1980s: Two-time All-State pick averaged 24.8 points per game in his career.
• (tie) Lafayette Lever, Pueblo, 1970s: Two-time All-State pick led team to two state titles.
• Kyle Cormier, Douglas, 2000s: Cormier won six state championships in cross country and distance events in track and won the 2004 Foot Locker National and West Regional championships before an All-American career running at the University of Arkansas.
• Rodney Peete, Sahuaro, 1980s: Future Heisman Trophy runner-up was a record-setting quarterback as a junior, all-city receiver as a sophomore.
• Willie Wood, Sabino, 1970s: Future PGA Tour player competed here only briefly but dominated the local scene.
• Luis Robles, Sierra Vista Buena, 1990s-2000s: Robles, who spurned the MLS after being drafted by D.C. United to play professionally for Germany’s FC Kaiserslauter, was Arizona’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior, a high school All-American and a member of the U.S. under-18 national team while at Buena.
• Doug Northway, Sahuaro, 1970s: Won a bronze medal in the 1972 Olympics while still in high school.
• Bill Lenoir, Tucson High, 1950s: First Tucsonan to win a national junior title. Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith were among his victims.
Track and field
• (tie) Joe Batiste, Tucson High, 1930s: Set a national hurdles record that stood for more than 40 years.
• (tie) Michael Bates, Amphi, 1980s: Top hurdler, sprinter and football star.
• Eric Larkin, Sunnyside, 1990s: In the galaxy of Blue Devils stars, this three-time state champ is the only one named national high school wrestler of the year.
> Joe Kay, Tucson High, 2000s: Kay earned a volleyball scholarship to Stanford, but he suffered a stroke after being trampled by fans storming the court after a basketball game his senior year. He recovered enough to attend Stanford, although he could no longer participate in athletics.
• Stacy Engel, Catalina 1980s: First girl to play boys varsity baseball here as well as being a softball, track & field and volleyball standout.
• Julie Reitan, Sahuaro, 1990s: Softball all-star, state long jump champ, cross country standout.
• Tara Erdmann, Flowing Wells, 2000s: Seven time state champion in track, cross country and soccer, including pulling off the track trifecta as a senior winning 5A-II state titles in the 3,200, 1,600 and 800 meters.
• (tie) Paula Pyers, Santa Rita, 1980s: Led unbeaten Eagles to state title in 1984 before moving on to play at the University of Southern California.
• (tie) Sybil Dosty, Salpointe Catholic, 2000s: Dosty averaged 27 points and more than 11 rebounds per game during a four-year varsity career that included multiple All-America team selections.
• Virginia Pedersoli, Amphi, 1990s: Won three straight Class 5A state titles.
• Cindy Flom, Sahuaro, 1970s: Future LPGA star played on boys varsity team.
• Kelly Walbert, Salpointe Catholic, 1990s: City’s first major star, went on to play at Duke.
• Kenzie Fowler, Canyon del Oro, 2000s: The 2008 Gatorade National Player of the Year and former Junior Olympian is already a three-time All-American entering her senior season in 2009. As one of the country’s best-ever high school pitchers, the fact she was also one of the state’s best hitters often gets overlooked. Including a streak of four-straight no hitters and two perfect games, Fowler closed out her senior season by leading the Dorados to their fourth-straight state championship game.
• Caitlin Leverenz, Sahuaro, 2000s: State record holder in multiple events. Missed qualifying for 2008 U.S. Olympic team by a fraction of a second after a junior year that including winning gold medals at multiple international events.
• (tie) Kendra Strohm, Salpointe Catholic, 1990s-2000s: Lost one set in four-year career in which she became Arizona’s first girl to win four-consecutive singles state championships.
• (tie) Kirsten and Tristany Leikem, Flowing Wells, 2000s: Twin terrors became state’s first-ever four-time state doubles champions from 2005-2008.
Track and field
• Carolyn Jackson, Salpointe Catholic, 1990s: Showed tremendous range in the sprints from the 100 to the 400.
• Bre Ladd, Canyon del Oro, 1990s-2000s: The 2001 Gatorade National Player of the Year was also a member of U.S. Junior National team. Selected by Volleyball Magazine as the No. 1 recruit in the nation for class of 2002.
Great coaching goes well beyond wins and losses, but trying to list all the Tucson-area coaches who have touched the lives of area youths through the years would be a futile effort. Albeit not all-inclusive, here are some of the area’s most successful coaches through the years:
• Sue Clark, Tucson High, girls tennis: From 1959 to 1972, Clark’s teams set a national record, going 213-0 in dual matches, and won 10 state titles.
• Bobby DeBerry, Sunnyside, wrestling: From 1996 to this past winter, DeBerry oversaw 13 state wrestling championship teams, including the past 12 straight.
• Bud Doolen, Tucson High, basketball: Won four 5A boys basketball championships between 1943 and 1949 and was runner up in 1940.
• Mike Dyer, Marana, girls basketball: Dyer not only won four state titles at Marana in the 1980s, he initiating a federal lawsuit against the Arizona Interscholastic Association to have the girls basketball season moved from the spring to winter, helping, among other things, spring softball blossom in southern Arizona.
• Hal Eustice, Sahuaro, baseball: Eustice brought three state titles and two runner-up trophies back to Sahuaro in the 1970s and ’80s and also won a baseball championship at San Manuel in 1963.
• Vern Friedli, Amphi, football: Still going strong, Friedli is Arizona’s all-time wins leader with 309 career coaching victories.
• Rollin T. Gridley, Tucson High, football: From 1935-47, Gridley won five state football championships and posted an 88-29-8 record.
• Mary Hines, Catalina, girls volleyball: Her 215-27 career record in 28 years at Catalina, including her 1985 national coach of the year award, are just part of the story. Her coaching tree of former players and assistants branched out across Tucson.
• Juanita Kingston, Rincon/University, volleyball: Her 34-year coaching career, which included an undefeated girls volleyball state championship season at Rincon in 1993, included coaching boys and girls volleyball, softball, basketball and track.
• Don Klostreich, Sunnyside, wrestling: From 1979-88, Klostreich’s Blue Devils squads won nine of 10 state titles, laying the foundation of the state’s greatest wrestling dynasty.
• Roland LaVetter, Pueblo, boys basketball: Coached Pueblo’s great state championship teams in 1977 and 1978 as well as having several coaching disciples move on to coaching success.
• Jeff Lockwood, Sahuaro, cross country: Under Lockwood’s guidance, Sahuaro won four girls and one boys state title between 1980 and 1990.
• Dick McConnell, Sahuaro, boys basketball: Retired in 2007 as Arizona’s winningest boys basketball coach with 714 career victories, 670 of which came at Sahuaro.
• Richard Sanchez, Sunnyside, wrestling/football: Sanchez won five straight state wrestling titles from 1990-94 and has built Sunnyside football into one of Tucson’s best since 1993, winning two titles. He currently has a 10-year streak of at least one playoff win, unmatched by any area coach or program.
• Jeff Scurran, CDO/Sabino/Santa Rita, football: Built Sabino into a decade-long dynasty with three state championships in the 1990s. Upon his return to high school football in 2007, Santa Rita went from 0-11 in 2006 to 23-4 in two seasons with semifinal and championship game appearances.
• Hank Slagle, Tucson High, baseball: Won 10 of Tucson High’s national-record 29 state baseball championships and coached the Badgers to two more title games between 1942 and 1954. Tucson High’s 52-game win streak spanning the 1942-46 seasons still stands as Arizona’s longest.
• Andy Tolson, Tucson High, baseball: Won six of Tucson High’s national-record 29 state baseball championships and coached the Badgers to four more title games between 1930 and 1941.
• “Doc” Van Horne, Tucson High, boys track & field: Van Horne was head coach for 13 state championships form 1927-1953.
• Wolfgang Weber, Salpointe Catholic, boys soccer: The dean of boys soccer in Tucson, Weber is approaching the unprecedented 500 career wins plateau in Arizona, has four state championships, three runner-up finishes and was also one of the founders of the successful Tucson Soccer Academy.
By Geoff Grammer, Michael Schmelzle