Local girl featured in Sports Illustrated

[btn]By Don Ketchum[/btn]

Fans who read Sports Illustrated most certainly had to do a double-take while perusing the popular “Faces in the Crowd’’ feature in the Aug. 4 issue.

That’s because two athletes from the same school, Xavier College Preparatory, shared the spotlight. One of them was North Central resident Madison Clarke. The other student was Khalia Lanier from North Scottsdale.

It’s rare enough when one school or individual is chosen from hundreds (maybe thousands?) across the country, but having two athletes from the same school in the same issue rarely happens.

The 5-foot-2 Clarke is more than a foot shorter than the 6-3 Lanier, but what she has done on the tennis court is no less impressive. Clarke, now a senior, has won the last two individual Arizona state tennis championships and is aiming for a third in the spring of 2015. As a team, Xavier has won three in a row.

Said Clarke: “Somebody said that I might be in Sports Illustrated. I’m like, “What?’ I also didn’t know she (Lanier) would be in there. I was looking down the list and saw Xavier, and realized that we both were in. It’s still kind of hard to believe. A lot of my friends have said, ‘I saw you.’”

Clarke recently won the first New Balance high school nationals in Cambridge, Mass., rallying to defeat a California player in two straight sets after dropping the first.

Clarke was introduced to tennis at an early age and followed in the footsteps of her paternal grandfather and her father, both decent players in their own right. “I just love playing,’’ she said.

Due in part to her height, she likes to be mentally stronger than her opponents. She prefers to be aggressive from the first serve of the match instead of waiting around too long to see what the other person is going to do.

“I try not to think too much, just react,’’ she said.

Clarke hopes to continue to play in college—perhaps in California, where she could study marine biology. She likes dolphins, and has even gone swimming with them in Mexico. Helping them eat—primarily fish and squid (eeeyeeew!)—is another story altogether.

So until the varsity tennis season begins in the spring, she will continue to work on her game several times a week with a coach.

“I believe in myself—I know I can win,’’ she said.

Bruskas to lead Phoenix Boys Choir

North Central Phoenix resident Kristen Bruskas is the new executive director of the Phoenix Boys Choir, effective Sept. 2. Bruskas was chosen as the ideal person to lead the choir after an extensive search was conducted.

Bruskas has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years, holding various positions in marketing, development and administration. She has a passion for music as well, previously serving as a part-time choir director for 25 years, and also establishing the position of Performing Arts director for the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley.

Bruskas also held positions at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Scottsdale, Arizona Opera and, most recently, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco.

She was previously affiliated with the Phoenix Boys Choir in the early 1990s, serving on the Board of Trustees when the choir acquired its current building at 1131 E. Missouri Ave.

“The Phoenix Boys Choir has a reputation of excellence and I am committed to the growth of the choir both in terms of musical participation and with regard to community support and engagement,” Bruskas said.

The Phoenix Boys Choir season opens with the popular Thursday Concert Series beginning Sept. 25. Three main concerts will be performed throughout the Choir’s 66th season, starting with “A Phoenix Boys Choir Holiday” running in December, “Crowning Glory” in February and “Winning Spirit” in May. For more details, visit www.phoenixboyschoir.org or call 602-264-5328.

Torres named COO of Florence Crittenton

Elexia Torres has been named chief operations officer of Florence Crittenton Services of Arizona, a community leader in government, nonprofit and for-profit program development.

Torres brings more than 15 years of experience in the counseling, mental health and behavioral health fields to Florence Crittenton. Most recently, she served as the office chief of Community Empowerment for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, where she oversaw a variety of community-based initiatives and grants.

She has accrued more than eight years of progressively responsible administrative and management experience, while specializing for more than six years in outreach and com


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