Junior Olympic Standouts Sprint Into Nationals

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A pair of Rim country teenagers will be participating in the Junior Olympic National Cross Country championships Dec. 9 at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park near Reno, Nev.

LeighAnn Haynes and Michelle Closs qualified for the national finals Saturday during the Region X Junior Olympic championships at Glendale Thunderbird Park.

Haynes finished fifth at the regionals by turning in a very quick ET of 18:54 over the 5K distance. Haynes' previous best on a 5K course was 19:31.

By finishing 15th in 20:24, Closs also earned a seed in the national finals.

Sisters Whitney and Kari Hardt also qualified for the national showdown, but decided not to travel to Reno because they had other obligations.

Blue Ridge advances, SL ousted

The much anticipated showdown between the neighboring high school football teams of Blue Ridge and Show Low, which battled last season for the state championship, will not happen this year.

Players on Show Low's defending state champion team had their dreams of a second consecutive 3A crown dashed on a 28-24 state semifinal loss to Parker.

However, state top-ranked and undefeated Lakeside Blue Ridge will advance to the title game thanks to a 37-7 shellacking of Wickenburg.

Both final-four games were played Friday at Mesa Community College. The state championship Nov. 24 also will be contested at Mesa College.

In the title game, Blue Ridge will be looking to regain the state supremacy it owned from 1992 to 1997 when the Jackets won title after title.

Blue Ridge's impressive winning streak was erased in 1998 by Payson. The following year, Show Low edged out the Jackets for the state crown.

With the Cougars out of the playoff picture, the highly controversial saga of one of Show Low's star players to Blue Ridge may finally come to an end.

Kenly Ries, a star running back on Show Low's state championship team, transferred to Blue Ridge early this season after apparently becoming disgruntled with new Cougar coach Tim Slade.

Stricter Arizona Interscholastic Association guidelines were recently enacted to halt the transfer-on-a-whim impulses of prep athletes and their parents.

Because Ries was allegedly living temporarily in a fifth-wheel trailer in a fellow Blue Ridge player's back yard, cries of foul play were heard up and down Highway 260 between Pinetop and Show Low.

For a legal transfer from school to school, guidelines state that a student athlete must establish permanent residence with his family in the new district.

After learning of Ries' transfer, AIA officials didn't take any action, effectively putting a stamp of approval on the gridiron star's move.

A White Mountain community's Web site, complete with a "smack board" devoted to discussing East region football, received loads of e-mail both for and against the player's transfer.

Many of the communications were profanity-laced, causing the Web site operator to change the format.

The back-and-forth bickering continued throughout the 12-game campaign. But now that the season has wrapped up for Show Low, the controversy that rocked the two schools appears to be over.

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