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Top student-athletes

Citizen Staff Writer



Since 1957, the Tucson Citizen has profiled more than a 1,000 of the city’s finest high school student-athletes.

Each school nominated a candidate based on academics, athletics, leadership, service to their school and an essay on who influenced them most.

In all, there were 54 winners of the Tucson Citizen Student-Athlete Award, with co-recipients named twice.

Every year, the Citizen also would revisit a past winner from a decade before. Here’s what three are doing now:

Tim Ashcraft, Sahuaro, 2004

How many AH-64D Apache attack helicopter pilots play piano, cello, drums and guitar, sing in chorus, give piano lessons and have and acted and sung with professional aplomb in musical performances?

Tim Ashcraft is one of such an elite.

A 2007 West Point grad, Ashcraft, still very much a champion of the arts, is now stationed in flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., where he is specializing in helicopters.

Ashcraft always yearned to fly. He likes to recall when he first learned on a Cessna while at West Point and flew around the Statue of Liberty and up the Hudson River. It was both business and fun.

At Sahuaro, music was as much of his growing-up years as academics (22nd in his class) and sports (nine letters in football, baseball and soccer). At the academy, he minored in music and majored in mechanical engineering.

“My granddad was in the Army, so that was the military background,” Ashcraft says, “but I didn’t think about the military growing up. But in choosing West Point, it provided the best opportunity to enjoy what I do and serve my country.”

Granddad was Clarence L. “Stub” Ashcraft, a University of Arizona icon, who died in 2008 at age 89. He was a major in WWII, a former UA lineman and served as UA historian and athletic events coordinator (1962-85). Tim’s father is David Ashcraft, a retired Sahuaro music director. Tim credits his older brother, Chris, as his life’s inspiration.

For Tim Ashcraft, serving in the Army has been an uplifting experience.

“With everything going on in the world today,” he says, “I couldn’t be more amazed at the support the U.S. military is receiving.”

Philo Sanchez, Sunnyside, 2002

The official programs stretched Philo Sanchez’s height from 5 feet 6 to 5-7, but every one of his 195 pounds on the football field was felt by opponents.

Sanchez, the 2002 Student-Athlete winner, has known nothing other than to overachieve since the time parents Richard and Anna Sanchez gently informed him what life was about, around age 2.

As an athlete, Philo was Sunnyside’s all-time leading rusher under his dad, the head coach, and led the Blue Devils to two state playoff championship games, winning the second time.

Sanchez continued playing at Northern Arizona and was the Lumberjacks’ leading rusher his junior and senior years.

But there is a lot more to his life than football. He was a scholar from kindergarten on and graduated fourth in his Sunnyside class of 365 and has been constantly involved in community and church service.

“Winning the Student-Athlete Award was sort of the culmination of everything, all the hard work I did,” Sanchez said.

At NAU he pursued a biology and pre-med major intending to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Mark Donovan, an orthodontist. But over the last two years, in which he helped his father as an assistant coach, Sanchez decided law school was for him. He’s now in the process of applying.

“My mother always said I should be a lawyer,” he said, “because I was so argumentative. Then after I graduated (NAU), she sensed I was not that excited about (being an orthodontist) anymore. She always was the smartest person I ever knew.”

Brains and inspiration are part of any success story. Football stars such as Walter Payton drifted in and out of his imagination, but one was always No. 1.

“Some kids make a superhero out of Superman or Spider-Man but I always had my father,” Philo says. “He’s what every man should be – compassionate, though sometimes he doesn’t show it, and strong.”

Molly Reiling, Salpointe Catholic, 1984

Girls sports took off in the 1970s, when Title IX required schools to offer equal sports opportunities to females.

Molly Reiling watched her older sister play interscholastic softball, and she eagerly followed suit.

“I was the first female Student-Athlete winner from Salpointe,” she said. “It was sort of a new thing but I remember it made me feel very proud. I was one of the first generation after (Title IX). We were some of the first to see the full effects.”

Karen Christensen from Rincon High was the first girl’s Student-Athlete Award winner in 1976, followed by Kristine Bush (Sabino), Lisa Kay Baker (Sahuaro) and Vickie Patton (Marana) before Reiling won in 1984.

Paul Reiling had three daughters and no sons but he never lacked for kids active in sports. He helped coached his girls in softball. Molly’s expertise was softball and volleyball and she went on to play two years of college volleyball at Arizona State before transferring to concentrate on her architecture degree at UC-Santa Barbara.

Now the married Molly Dowd, lives in Verona, N.J., a suburb of New York City, with two preteen daughters. A freelance spatial planning and interior drafting professional, she started a middle school volleyball program for her daughters.

“I thought of going on in sports and it’s amazing the opportunities growing for women now in college and after – professional, overseas pros, coaching . . .

“I’m just grateful for the opportunities.”


Year Student-athlete High school

1957 D.L. Secrist Jr. Tucson High

1958 Donald Parsons Catalina

1959 Edward Brown Flowing Wells

1960 Terry DeJonghe Salpointe

1961 Robert Svob Catalina

1962 Ray Kosanke Tucson High

1963 Michael Aboud Tucson High

1964 Pat McAndrew Flowing Wells

1965 Charles Begley Sunnyside

1966 Eric Evett Catalina

1967 Ron Curry Tucson High

1968 Jeff Lovin Palo Verde

1969 Bruce Pawlowski Salpointe

1970 Dave Henry Sahuaro

1971 Tom Hagen Salpointe

1972 Bill Baechler Palo Verde

1973 Francisco Gomez Pueblo

1974 Richard Rucker Canyon del Oro

1975 Guillermo Robles Sunnyside

1976 Karen Christensen Rincon

1977 Michael Wing Rincon

1978 Craig Barker Amphitheater

1979 Ralph Gay Sunnyside

1980 Kristine Bush Sabino

1981 Lisa Kay Baker Sahuaro

1982 Vickie Patton Marana

1983 Martin Tetreault Sahuaro

1984 Molly Reiling Salpointe

1985 Timothy Roggeman Salpointe

1986 Jon Volpe Amphitheater

1987 Luis A. Padilla Pueblo

1988 Nicole Stern Catalina

1989 Robert Moen Flowing Wells

1990 Grace O’Neill Salpointe

1991 Angel Phillips Rincon

1992 Zenen Salazar Sunnyside

1993 Michelle Vielledent Sahuaro

1994 Julie Reitan Sahuaro

and Brady Bennon Sabino

1995 Kelly Yablonski University High

1996 Joe Aguirre Palo Verde

1997 Andy Viner University High

1998 Scott Beck Canyon del Oro

1999 Glenn Schatz University High

2000 Nicole Voelkel University High

2001 Ai-ris Yonekura Catalina Foothills

2002 Philo Sanchez Sunnyside

2003 Tim Ashcraft Sahuaro

2004 Joe Kay Tucson High

2005 Tiffany Hosten Tucson High

and Echo Fallon Catalina Foothills

2006 Michael Smith Sunnyside

2007 Tara Erdmann Flowing Wells

2008 James Eichberger Catalina


Top student-athletes

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