The Student News Site of Xavier College Preparatory


The Student News Site of Xavier College Preparatory


The Student News Site of Xavier College Preparatory


The Student News Site of Xavier College Preparatory


Sabers, horses and race cars: Not your typical sports

Vivian Amoia
Eva Wilson lunges toward her opponent at a lesson on Friday, April 12 at Phoenix Fencing Academy. Both fencers are wearing the metal jackets that are connected to strips with cords that detect when they are hit.

Athletics are cherished at Xavier, however there are several student athletes who compete in unique sports outside of school. 

Eva Wilson ‘26 found out about fencing when in 2020 Lee Keifer was the first US athlete to ever win Olympic Fencing Gold in Individual Foil. At the time, Wilson wasn’t involved in any sports outside of school, and her mom encouraged her to get involved.

After watching the 2020 Olympics, Wilson’s curiosity led her to find the Phoenix Fencing Academy (PFA), which was conveniently close to her house. She liked the coaches and their dedication, and soon began to work and advance into higher classes. 

Wilson practices three hours a day, six days a week in order to improve on executing her touches and perfecting tactics and patterns. 

She is now in the elite class at PFA, which is a saber club. Although there are three disciplines or types of fencing (saber, épée, and foil, all using different types of blades and sets of rules), saber is Wilson’s favorite. 

When competing, a girl wears a plastic chest protector, then a white jacket, then a metal jacket, which is hooked up to a strip with a cord that detects when one is hit. Matches are scored by trained referees and are won by the first person to score 15 points. 

Fencing is mental because one must have confidence in actions. Wilson reflects on how her coaches always tell her “No risk, no reward.”

Will Becker III, Wilson’s head coach says, “My favorite part about working with Eva is watching how intelligent she is.”

Her next competition will be in May in La Jolla, California. 

Though fencing has grown tremendously in the US in the past few years, dressage (pronounced druh-saazh), which is Kali Riddell’s ‘24 sport of choice, has as well.

“Dressage is pretty much a sport where the goal is to produce harmony between the rider and the horse,” Riddell says. One is judged on a series of movements from 1-10, technical aspects and the execution, in addition to a lot of individual aspects. Also considered is how connected and collected the horse is to the rider.

Riddell became involved in dressage when she was four because her mom does it. She now practices five days a week at a barn in Scottsdale for individual competitions. A typical lesson consists of a structured 45 minutes, a warm-up, and then movements, or she will go out by herself and practice for 45 minutes. 

Riddell competes year-round (except in July and August) and has about one competition a month that can be indoors or outdoors. Competitions are unique because they are completely silent, so a coach can’t advise and a lot of it is on the rider to make decisions and stay positive and collected. 

She is also a part of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association. This association consists of high schoolers who ride horses. Even though they don’t live in the same area (some live out of state), they come together to compete.

Kali Riddell exits the awards ceremony smiling at the Desert Dressage CDI competition. This competition was this past January in Thermal, California. (Captured by Wendy Riddell)

Riddell competes individually (with her horse Hashtag going with her) and has been for the past six years. In these IEA competitions, a group of horses is brought together and each rider will ride a horse that she has, most likely, never ridden before. The idea is to build the rider and horse to be able to adapt to any situation.

Riddell plans to continue her passion beyond high school and into college. 

“My favorite part (of dressage) is it really plays into the aspect of life. It teaches you a lot of moral lessons that I don’t think I would’ve learned through another sport. It teaches you how to adjust, and I think that’s really important,” she says.

Though dressage forces one to adjust and be flexible in situations, similarly in car racing a driver has to respond and process things at a fast rate. 

This is something that Isabella Adams ‘24 knows all too well. 

Adams began racing cars at the Apex Motor Club when she was 14. However, she began racing with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) in 2022, when she was 17.

Her dad, Ron Adams, who has more than 20 years of experience, is her biggest influence in racing. He has raced in both a Formula Dodge Series and a Ferrari Challenge. He even signed up to race with her in her most recent time with the SCCA, and is the reason why she decided to earn her SCCA race license. 

Adams practices at Apex Motor Club as much as she can. A typical practice consists of going out, lapping, and trying to improve things such as racing line, speed and braking. Sometimes, with an instructor, she will race in a Ferrari 458 Challenge and try to match certain timing given by the instructor.

Adams competes two to three times a year in an autocross called the AZ Solo. In this competition, a track of cones is set up and competitors have three trials to aim to get the fastest time. Then, they are ranked by how fast they can complete the track.  Since car racing is so unique, Adams does not compete with other girls her age; in fact, she competes against grown men and some women.

This is one sport where your build and strength don’t matter. It’s an equal playing field, and I’ve seen many women beat their male counterparts. I’ve worked in male-dominated fields my whole career, so I might think of it a bit differently from some. Being one of a few women motivates me to be better, to show that it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. I think this belief actually started at Xavier. We were all taught that we are so capable and the only thing that can hold us back is ourselves,” said Ally Arts ’07, a Xavier alumna, who started racing autocross in 2017 with the SCCA.

Isabella Adams surveys the track at her most recent SCCA AZ Solo competition. She is racing in her blue BMW m2 Competition. (Captured by Ally Arts)

Adams explains the checklist for race day, saying, “Prepping the car for race day consists of filling it full of gas, checking tire pressures, and we must always empty the car of anything in it so nothing flies around when racing. Prior to entry after check-in they do an engine check to ensure each car is within their respective requirements, since most people aren’t driving the same car.”

Racers compete with all different types of cars; however, Adams races with BMW m2 Competition in the AZ Solo.

She loves racing because it prepares one to be a better driver for the actual streets and it is special to her because it is an interest that both her dad and she share. 

Although it is a huge goal, Adams hopes to continue racing after she graduates from Xavier. 

Also, twice a year, Gators can attend a mini-driving school at Apex Motor Club through the Xavier Dads’ Club, which is hosted by her dad.

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