Aug. 18, 2004 - For the athletes seeking a solution to the cramped playing conditions at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, their prayers have been answered.
Thanks in part to donations from anonymous donors, Pusch Ridge has been able to expand its fields and undergo a major facelift to its campus at 9500 N. Oracle Road. From new fields to new coaches, the Christian high school is becoming a friendlier cage to play in for the Lions.
The biggest change at the school can be found on its fields. No longer will teams such as boys soccer, baseball, softball and football need to double up on fields. With the current renovations to the 48-acre campus, each sport will have a field of its own. There they can begin to move toward establishing a home field advantage along the scenic base of the Catalina Mountains at Pusch Ridge.
"These fields are so new we can't even get on them yet," said Pusch Ridge Athletic Director, Brandt McFarlin. According to McFarlin, the fields may not be ready for either the boys soccer season, which has already begun practices, or even the softball season in the spring because the grass hasn't fully grown in yet.
Located on the west side of the school will be the new soccer field, next to the football field. As of last week the field remained a large patch of dirt receiving water every day. Because the humid August weather isn't conducive to growing the type of grass the field needs, the boys soccer team will be forced to continue playing on the baseball field.
The first home game for the boys soccer squad will be played Sept. 14 against Desert Christian.
The Pusch Ridge softball team should be more optimistic about getting its field on time for the start of the spring season. Moving from its old home on the football field, softball's new home plate will be found right behind the school. The same as the soccer field, softball's new stomping grounds remains a work in progress.
"It's kind of a wait and see situation right now," said McFarlin, who is hoping for a little cooperation from Mother Nature this winter to ensure the new fields are ready. "We're praying for a wet winter."
McFarlin believes the patience will pay off. He points to the success that the additions to the football field have generated a year earlier as an example. Thanks to the new lights, for the first time in the school's brief history the football team was able to play a home game on a Friday night away from the heat. Coupled with the addition of new bleachers, school spirit at the grid iron games rose with the increase in attendance, McFarlin said.
Once the softball team has its new field, Pusch Ridge will be able to resod the football field.
The changes to athletic layout aren't reserved for the outside fields, however. Slowly but surely the gym, home to the basketball and volleyball teams, is getting a makeover. After the senior class of 2004 graduated in May, it made sure to leave behind its mark. By collecting enough donations, the seniors were able to have the school's mascot, a lion, colorfully emblazoned across center court.
The next step toward revitalizing the gymnasium will be to add a board on the gym's walls to showcase the school's track and field record holders. The board will join the freshly hung championship banners that Pusch Ridge sports are beginning to acquire.
All Pusch Ridge's renovations aren't purely cosmetic. This season the school will welcome a new face to its volleyball squad. Cameron North comes to Pusch Ridge from Green Fields Country Day School to serve as head coach. After spending the past four years as a teacher and assistant varsity baseball coach at Green Fields, North is relishing the change of scenery and a chance to integrate some of his values into his teaching.
"I look forward to teaching here," said North. "Teaching at a Christian school will give me the freedom to incorporate my Christian beliefs into the lessons."
As for coaching, North believes his biggest challenge will be the transformation to leading a girls squad.
"It's going to be an adjustment," North admitted, "but from what I've seen so far I think we could be pretty good. I'm looking forward to it."
Getting acclimated to coaching the girls shouldn't be a problem for North. His problem may come down the road if the school continues without a junior varsity coach and an assistant varsity volleyball coach, positions that remained unfilled as practice began Aug. 9. Assuming that role for the time being has been Angela Sauber who has stepped in for North during the first week while the new coach put the final touches on his wedding Aug. 13.
When North returns to school on Monday he may very well arrive a new man at what may seem to be a new school.