Arizona’s 50 most influential women in high school girls sports

Xavier Athletic Director Sister Lynn Winsor against Corona del Sol’s in the girls 6A volleyball state championship at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.

Title IX was written into law and signed by President Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972, giving women an equal opportunity in sports at schools that provided federal funds.

Fifty years later, how much has Arizona high school girls sports evolved? Here is a look at The Arizona Republic’s 50 most influential women in the past 50 years. These are women who made an impact either as an athlete, a coach or an administrator.

50 most influential women in Arizona high school sports history

1. Sister Lynn Winsor, Xavier Prep, coach, administrator 

The golf coach and athletic director came to the all-girls school in the mid-1970s as golf coach. She still is coaching the sport and has piled up countless championship trophies, and seen several players get to the LPGA. As an administrator since 1977, she had a huge impact on enhancing girls sports to make it more equitable in Arizona.

2. Misty Hyman, Phoenix Shadow Mountain, athlete

She set a state record in the mid-1990s in the 100-yard butterfly that still stands today. Hyman, who used swimming to battle childhood asthma, inspired so many girls to get into the pool. She perfected the underwater dolphin kick and went on to star at Stanford and she eventually won a gold medal at the Olympics.

3. Nicole Powell, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, athlete

Powell dominated in basketball, badminton, track and field and tennis in high school. Arguably the greatest female athlete ever to compete in Arizona. After graduating in 2000, she starred in basketball at Stanford, before playing in the WNBA. She was named head coach at UC Riverside in March 2020.

4. Jacquelyn Johnson, Yuma, athlete

A 2003 Yuma High graduate, Johnson led her volleyball and basketball teams and was a 14-time state champion in track and field. She ran a state record 13.60-second 100-meter hurdles her senior year, before starring as an heptathlete at Arizona State where she was a four-time NCAA outdoor champion (2004, 2006–08), and a three-time NCAA indoor champion (2006–08).

5. Sheila Baize, Tucson Unified School District, coach, administrator

She was a pioneer for girls sports in Tucson. She is a former athletic director in charge of sports among the high schools in that district for 23 years. Before getting into administration, Baize had a strong 12-year run as a coach at San Manuel, leading badminton, volleyball, basketball and softball teams. Her softball teams went 185-15 with five titles, helping 15 players to athletic college scholarships.

6. Ryneldi Becenti, Fort Defiance Window Rock, athlete

A 1989 graduate, she helped blaze a trail on the Navajo reservation for girls basketball, showing that fans won’t pack gyms just for the boys games. She starred at ASU and played professionally, including signing with the Mercury in 1994. Becenti is the first female to be inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame and, in 2013, became the first women’s basketball player to have her jersey (No. 21) retired by ASU.

Related: Who is Ryneldi Becenti, the woman in the viral video with Dawn Staley?

7. Gea Johnson, Tempe Corona del Sol, Phoenix Washington, athlete

Maybe the greatest all-around female athlete in Arizona history, she starred in the 1980s, becoming the National Female Athlete of the Year in 1984. Johnson went from being a basketball star to a top heptathlete in track and field, competing at Arizona State. She turned to bobsledding and reached the Winter Olympics in the two-women bobsled competition. Today she is finding competition in masters cycling.

Heather Farr, an American professional golfer, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 1989 and died after 4 years’ cancer fight in 1993.

Heather Farr, an American professional golfer, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 1989 and died after 4 years’ cancer fight in 1993.

8. Heather Farr, Xavier Prep, athlete

Who know how much she would have done in women’s golf if cancer had not taken her life in 1998 at age 28. Farr practically lived on Papago Golf Course with her sister, Missy, and dominated girls high school golf in the early 1980s before going to ASU. She joined a LPGA and was an instant success. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer at 24. In 1994, the LPGA established the Heather Farr Player Award.

9. Karen Self, Chandler Seton Catholic, coach

Self still is going strong coaching Seton’s girls basketball team, winning 12 state championships. She was named coach of the women’s McDonald’s All-American game, and took her team to New York City to play in the GEICO national women’s championships.

10. Nadine Sass, Phoenix Camelback, coach

She led Camelback to five state volleyball championships from 1980-90, and last year was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association (NHSACA) Hall of Fame. Earlier, she became part of the Arizona Coaches Hall of Fame. She won 85% of her matches from 1979-2000.

11. Cindy Johnson, Chandler, athlete

She smashed the state record in the discus at more than 176 feet in 1982 in track and field and was a softball star later in life, competing in world tournaments. She died at age 50 in 2014.

July 23, 1996---Bela Karolyi holds Kerri Strug after the USA team won the gold medal Tuesday in team finals in Atlanta. Strug injured her leg on a vault landing.

July 23, 1996—Bela Karolyi holds Kerri Strug after the USA team won the gold medal Tuesday in team finals in Atlanta. Strug injured her leg on a vault landing.

12. Kerri Strug, Tucson Green Fields Country Day, athlete

She was part of the Magnificent Seven Olympic team in 1996, helping the U.S. beat Russia for the gold medal with her vault on a badly sprained ankle. Her second vault scored a 9.712, clinching gold for the Americans. Coach Béla Károlyi carried Strug to the medal stand to join the others for the gold-medal ceremony.

13. Michele Mitchell, Phoenix Arcadia, athlete

She graduated from high school in 1980s and became a four-time All-American in diving at the University of Arizona. She won silver medals in the 10-meter platform diving in 1984 in the Los Angeles Olympics and in 1988 at the Seoul Olympics.

14. Christy Nore, Scottsdale Chaparral, athlete

She mastered so many sports in high school, it was hard to pick one as her best. She set a state record in the 300-meter hurdles in 1985 at 42.67 seconds. She starred in volleyball at ASU, where she was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2002.

15. Susie Parra, Chaparral, athlete

She dominated the circle in softball like nobody else in the late 1980s and 1990s. Incredible strikeout machine who pitched Arizona to Women’s College World Series championships in 1993 and 1994.

16. Paula Pyers, Tucson Santa Rita, athlete

A 1984 graduate, she averaged 29 points during a state championship season her last year leading her team to a 28-0 record. She played not only basketball but soccer at USC.

17. Jade Carey, Glendale Mountain Ridge, athlete

She won the gold medal in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in the floor exercise, sparking a new generation of young Arizona gymnasts to the sport. She was part of USA’s gold-winning world championships in 2019.

18. Gretchen James, Camelback, coach

She was among the first five women inducted into the Arizona Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame. She coached archery, making Camelback the dominant team through the start of Title IX. That sport is no longer part of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, but her imprint is forever lasting. In 1979, she became the first coach from Arizona to be named Coach of the Year by NHSACA. She entered that national association’s hall of fame in 2006.

Grace Park tees off for  Horizon High at Tatum Ranch Park.

Grace Park tees off for Horizon High at Tatum Ranch Park.

19. Grace Park, Xavier/Horizon, athlete

Born in Seoul, South Korea, she was a golf star at both Xavier Prep and Horizon, graduating in 1997. Like Gea Johnson, she was a Dial Award National Female Athlete of the Year in 1996. She played at ASU before turning pro in 1999. She won four LPGA tour events, including one major.

20. Jessica Onyepunuka, Peoria, athlete

She was a track sensation, setting a state record in the 100 meters that still stands today, before starring at USC, where she now works.

21. Kathy Gibbons, Alhambra, athlete

She graduated from Alhambra as one of the world’s greatest distance runners right when Title IX began in 1972. But she opened doors. She held the world record in the 1,000 and 10,000 meters and was on the 1972 U.S. Olympic Track and Field team.

Sep 19, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; USA forward Julie Ertz (8) takes a selfie with a fan after defeating New Zealand at Nippert Stadium, University of Cincinnati.

Sep 19, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; USA forward Julie Ertz (8) takes a selfie with a fan after defeating New Zealand at Nippert Stadium, University of Cincinnati.

22. Julie Ertz, Mesa Dobson, athlete

She was Julie Johnston in high school, dominating on soccer fields in the 2000s, before graduating from high school in 2010. She didn’t play on the high school team, but she was a force in club tournaments growing up and at Santa Clara. She was a part of two FIFA Women’s World Cup championships for the United States in 2015 and 2019.

23. Jessica McDonald, Glendale Cactus, athlete

She was a World Cup champion with Ertz in 2019 for the United States. She was an incredible athlete at Cactus in the mid-2000s, leading the girls basketball team to two state championships. In track and field, she was a top sprinter, setting records. She now plays professional soccer.

24. Neola “Sis” Voegtli, Parker, coach

A tremendous basketball coach, she was the first woman inducted into the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 1991. She was the first female to head up the Arizona Coaches Association in 1994.

25. Rachel Matakas, Surprise Valley Vista, coach

She has built a girls basketball dynasty at the 6A school in recent years, and this year was inducted into the Arizona HS Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame. She is 326-106 in her coaching career, leading her teams to the state tournaments 13 times in the last 15 years, and winning five state titles since 2017.

Jun 11, 2015; Eugene, OR, USA; Jaide Stepter of Southern California runs 57.24 in a women's 400m hurdles semifinal to advance in the 2015 NCAA Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field.

Jun 11, 2015; Eugene, OR, USA; Jaide Stepter of Southern California runs 57.24 in a women’s 400m hurdles semifinal to advance in the 2015 NCAA Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field.

26. Jaide Stepter, Oro Valley Canyon del Oro, athlete

A 2012 graduate, she broke Nore’s state record in the 300 hurdles her senior year with a time of 42.01 seconds. She was a nine-time All-American at USC.

27. Brenda Arbuckle, Chandler, athlete

Phenomenal post basketball player who graduated in 1982, she led the Wolves to a 55-game winning streak, averaging double digits in scoring and rebounding. She is part of the Chandler Sports Hall of Fame.

28. Kenzie Fowler, Canyon del Oro, athlete

In 2008 and ’09 she was the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year, leading a dynasty program. She was a two-time All-American pitcher at Arizona. She threw 14 no-hitters in her high school career.

29.  Cherry Roberds, Miami, coach

She was a coaching pioneer for girls sports in Arizona, leading Miami teams to state championships in three different sports. She was mostly known as a tennis coach and entered both Arizona and national high school halls of fame in the sport in the 1990s.

30. Lois Emshoff, El Mirage Dysart/Chandler, coach

She was a coaching icon in badminton at Dysart before there was Title IX, then at the start of Title IX at Chandler. She was a strong advocate for Title IX when she began coaching in the mid-1960s. She ended up coaching 51 years. She started Chandler’s badminton program in 1972. Those teams won four state titles and 11 region championships. She has been inducted into several halls of fame, including a national hall of fame for badminton.

31. Sara Gorton Slattery, Mountain Pointe, athlete

One of the great distance runners all-time in Arizona preps, graduating in 1999, she was a two-time NCAA champion running for Colorado. She won the gold at the 2007 Pan American Games in the 10,000 meters.

32. Sue Hysong, Tolleson/Westview/Winslow, coach, official

She has been a big part of track and field in Arizona with her husband, Cranston, since the 1970s, coaching at Winslow, Tolleson and Westview. She and her husband were always found working the AIA state track and field championships, keeping track of the times. Her husband died last year, but Sue has continued his legacy, helping at big state track meets and coaching.

Stefana Jelacic

Stefana Jelacic

33. Stefana Jelacic, Chandler, athlete

She knocked down the door of a male-dominated sport of wrestling, qualifying for the state meet in boys wrestling in 2020, bypassing competing in girls wrestling after the AIA had sanctioned the sport for girls. She won the 118-pound girls state title in 2019, the first year the AIA had girls wrestling.

34. Ky Westbrook, Chandler, athlete

She was perhaps the most dominant girls track and field performer her last two years at Chandler, setting a state record in the shot put and coming close to breaking Onyepunuka’s state record in the 100 dash. She went on to star in track at USC.

35. Julie Brase Hairgrove, Catalina Foothills, athlete

The granddaughter of the late great Arizona men’s basketball coach Lute Olson, Brase is in the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame for basketball, a star at Tucson Catalina Foothills in the late 1990s, breaking nine state records. She was an assistant coach with the WNBA Mercury.

36. Kayla Pedersen, Mesa Red Mountain, athlete

She starred in basketball in the mid-2000s, graduating in 2007. She was the seventh overall pick of the WNBA Draft in 2011, after playing at Stanford. She led Red Mountain to the 5A-I state title her senior year. She had 2,611 points, 1,444 rebounds, 434 assists and 304 blocks in her high school career.

37. Hannah Carson, Chandler, athlete

She was a volleyball, soccer and track and field sensation, graduating in 2011. But she was mostly known for influencing girls in her generation in the javelin. She became one of the top youth javelin throwers in the world and was a six-time state champion in track and field in multiple events.

For subscribers: How Title IX boosted Arizona HS girls sports in 50 years

38. Haley Cavinder, Gilbert, athlete

A 2019 athlete, she, with her twin sister Hanna, became the face of NIL at Fresno State last summer when it became legal for NCAA athletes to accept endorsement deals. Haley picked up in basketball where she left off at Gilbert in college.

39. Hanna Cavinder, Gilbert, athlete

Hanna basically did everything Haley did on the court, duplicating her sister stat by stat and now cashing in on the NIL as big TikTok influencers.

Mar. 2, 2022; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Valley Vista's Jennah Isai (23) shoots a three pointer against Perry during the 6A State Championship game at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Mar. 2, 2022; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Valley Vista’s Jennah Isai (23) shoots a three pointer against Perry during the 6A State Championship game at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

40. Jennah Isai, Valley Vista, athlete

She was the Arizona Republic’s female high school basketball Player of the Year this year, after leading her team to the state title. She’s a magician on the court, advancing the game for several years with her ability to handle the ball and score and pass and defend. She’ll be big at Oregon.

41. Becca Longo, Chandler Basha, athlete

She was a place kicker in football, and in 2017, became the first female to sign a national letter of intent to play football at either an NCAA Division I or II program, signing with Division II Adams State.

42. Krysten Muir, Tempe Marcos de Niza, athlete

She was the football team’s starting kicker on the 2015 and ’16 teams, and scored in the state championship game. She made 5 of 10 field-goal tries and 98 of 112 extra points in her last two years of high school. She suffered a serious spinal injury in late January 2021 in a car accident, overcoming partial paralysis with her persistent work ethic to not only show she could kick again but to help others.

43. Debbie Doom, Tempe McClintock, athlete

After starring as a pitcher in softball at McClintock, she became the most dominate player in the NCAA, making UCLA’s all-decade team for the 1980s. She led the Bruins to three straight national titles from 1982-85.

Danielle Ammaccapane is interviewed before her induction in to the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort April 8, 2015.

Danielle Ammaccapane is interviewed before her induction in to the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort April 8, 2015.

44. Danielle Ammaccapane, Phoenix Thunderbird, athlete

She was so good at golf in the early 1980s that she played on Thunderbird’s boys team. She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links title in 1985, and was a three-time first-team All-American at ASU. She entered ASU’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. She had a successful career in the LPGA.

45. Valorie McKenzie, Horizon, coach

She has been Horizon’s volleyball coach since the school opened in 1981. She was this year’s Arizona Republic Coach of the Year, leading her team to the state title in the fall in 5A.

46. Sharon Austerman, Phoenix Cortez, coach

In 2011 Cortez named its gym after the former volleyball coach, who had a Hall of Fame career, leading the girls volleyball program for 31 years. Hired in 1965 to be a teacher at Cortez, she coached pom line, volleyball, basketball and track and field, inspiring girls to further their education.

47. Khalia Lanier, Xavier Prep, athlete

She won the Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year in 2015, she went on to play outside hitter at USC. Her father, NBA legend Bob Lanier, recently died.

48. Suzie Gaw, Scottsdale, athlete

When Title IX began in the early 1970s, she could have been the face for female athletics in Arizona. She was a force on the softball field, winding up in two halls of fame in the sport, playing shortstop and outfield. She was on the 1979 ASA National Champion Sun City Saints team was a first-team All-American at ASU.

49. Kim Ulrich-Suss, Glendale Deer Valley, coach

She not only was a big mover in girls volleyball in the 1980s and ’90s, she keyed the start of boys volleyball in the Deer Valley district. If not for her, there might not be boys volleyball as a sanctioned AIA sport.

50. Crissy Ahmann Perham, Benson, athlete

She was one of a handful of swimmers at Benson during her high school days in the early 1990s. She emerged to glory at the University of Arizona and in the Olympics. She won two NCAA titles in the 100-yard butterfly. In the Barcelona Olympics, she won the silver medal in the 100 fly.

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: The Republic’s 50 most influential women in Arizona HS girls sports