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Stayin' True: Local Kids Turn Sun Devil Student-Athletes

Dec 14, 2020

by Christian Lopez, Sun Devil Athletics Media Relations Intern, Walter Cronkite School Class of 2021

Arizona State University has a long legacy in the athletics world. With over a century of sports, the university has produced amazing athletes like Randall McDaniel, Curley Culp, Christy Nore, and more continuing to join the ranks as the years pass. Recently the university has had the pleasure of gaining local talents such as softball's Bella Loomis, soccer's Jessica Hale, and hockey's Johnny Walker.

These student-athletes continue to add to the successful history of sports at ASU; however, the most unifying aspect of these players is perhaps not just their passion for their sports, but the connection of being from the same state.

For Loomis, Hale, and Walker, Arizona State has never been far away as they grew up. These local student-athletes all shared the experience of being raised in the Valley, and all decided to go to the same university for one very similar reason, family.

Bella Loomis, a senior on the women's softball team, grew up going to ASU sporting events her whole life, stating that it was a pretty easy decision to choose ASU.

"I'm a big family girl, so I love the fact that my family can come support me at any time," Loomis said.

Loomis grew up with a tremendous love for family. Probably the most unique aspect of her childhood was growing up with her grandparents in her home. Not only did she have support from her parents and brother, but from them as well.

"They've just always preached to work hard every day, give it the best, and just be a good person overall," said Loomis. "…I just really play for them. Just love the game for them."



As an Arizona native, not only has Loomis had a passion for softball, but also other outdoor activities. She is an avid hiker who has traversed trails all over the state. Loomis is not the only athlete who has had a strong love for Arizona.

Jessica Hale, a senior on the women's soccer team, comes from a lineage of Arizona State Alumni. Hale's parents both attended ASU, and after visiting the Tempe campus for the first time, she knew that it was the right choice.

"When I went and visited, I was like, 'oh my God.' And that's when I fell in love with the school," Hale said.

Hale was impressed by the beauty of the campus, and the facilities, and the Industrial Engineering degree program the university has to offer. Family was the final deciding factor when choosing to attend ASU, and it all led back to how Hale was raised.

"We grew up in a really close family," Hale said. "…I really respect my parents because they worked really hard…they definitely influenced a lot of what I do and how I do it."

Just like the other two student-athletes Johnny Walker, a senior on the men's ice hockey team, chose ASU for the family atmosphere the campus inspired.

As one of the NHL's current top-ranking recruits, Walker has had a very successful ice hockey career. With the impressive record of his second-straight, 20-plus goal season last year, Walker has attributed much of his success to his family.

"My stepdad was my coach from the time I was like five or six," said Walker. "My brother played hockey; it was just kind of my whole family revolved around hockey…They're all so supportive, and it wouldn't be possible, especially without my mom."

Growing up, school was the main priority for Walker. His mother was his most significant driving force in making education just as important to Walker as hockey. Since choosing to attend ASU, Walker has helped in taking the team to new heights.

"From the time they announced they were going to division one, this was where I wanted to come," Walker said, "…it was a no brainer, I would have done anything to play here."

Not only have the student-athletes relied on their families for support throughout their college experiences, but also their teammates, especially during a year that has offered so many challenges for the student-athletes. With everything transitioning to online in March and their seasons being cut short due to the pandemic, many student-athletes relied heavily on Zoom and technology to stay connected and support one another.

"It was a hard time not being with your teammates for a while," Loomis said. "…we have a really good support system with each other.

Being able to stay connected throughout the summer and achieve personal growth in quarantine was perhaps the biggest positive for the student-athletes. With so much support from their team and families, Loomis, Hale, and Walker look to compete and prove that Arizona State Athletics is a force to be reckoned with.

Arizona State University has become more than just a college for Loomis, Hale, and Walker. It is a second family.

"If ASU feels like home to you, then I definitely think it's the right place to go," Hale said.

While family was why most of the student-athletes chose to attend the university, it has since changed. It is the people themselves that have drawn in so many other talented athletes and students. The immense amount of resilience, determination, and pride that each student at ASU possesses makes it not just a school but a family.

Learn about more Sun Devil teams with local talent here.


Nathan Baez, Oro Valley (Ironwood Ridge)
Michael Brueser, Chandler (Hamilton)
Hunter Haas, Phoenix (Corona Del Sol)
Brian Kalmer, Chandler (Corona del Sol)
Ethan Long, Gilbert (Mountain Pointe)
Kai Murphy, Mesa (Red Mountain)
Seth Nager, Oro Valley (Ironwood Ridge)
Brock Peery, Peoria (Mountain Ridge)
Drew Swift, Chandler (Hamilton)
Boyd Vander Kooi, Mesa (Skyline)
Nick Wallerstedt, Tempe (Mountain Pointe)
Men's Basketball
Micah Burno, Scottsdale (Chaparral)
Jalen Graham, Chandler (Mountain Pointe)
Jaelen House, Scottsdale (Shadow Mountain)
John Olmsted, Morenci (Morenci)
Holland Woods, Phoenix (Appollo)
Trenton Bourguet, Marana (Marana)
Jean Boyd III, Tempe (Corona del Sol)
Ben Bray, Mesa (Red Mountain)
Kyle Breed, Tucson (Ironwood Ridge)
Anthonie Cooper, Goodyear (Millennium)
Cade Cote, Gilbert (Williams Field)
D.J. Davidson, Mesa (Desert Ridge)
Roman Dewys, Chandler (Basha)
Erik Dickerson, Scottsdale (Chaparral)
Deonce Elliott, Mesa (Red Mountain)
Ralph Frias, Safford (Safford)
Alijah Gammage, Phoenix (Desert Vista)
Josh Hart, Tucson (Salpointe)
Case Hatch, Gilbert (Perry)
Curtis Hodges, Mesa (Mountain View)
K.J. Jarrell, Scottsdale (Saguaro)
Andre Johnson, Tolleson (Tolleson Union)
Tyler Johnson, Gilbert (Highland)
Conner Lewis, Phoenix (Boulder Creek)
Chase Lucas, Chandler (Chandler)
Kevin Macias, Mesa (Dobson)
Fritzny Niclasse, Queen Creek (Queen Creek)
Ricky Pearsall, Tempe (Corona del Sol)
Alexander Randle, Mesa (Red Mountain)
Marco Salas, Mesa (Dobson)
Will Shaffer, Scottsdale (Saguaro)


Connor Soelle, Scottsdale (Saguaro)
Kyle Soelle, Scottsdale (Saguaro)
Corey Stephens, Scottsdale (Saguaro)
Kolbe Stuckwisch, Gilbert (Gilbert)
Michael Williams, Phoenix (Shadow Mountain)
Cristian Zendejas, Chandler (Perry)
Men's Golf 
Mason Andersen, Chandler (Hamilton)
Oscar Salvanera, Queen Creek (Queen Creek)
Connor Stuart, Phoenix (Desert Vista)
Johnny Walker, Phoenix (University of Nebraska Online H.S.)
Men's Tennis
Nathan Ponwith, Scottsdale (Connections Academy)
Jonah Wilson, Gilbert (Connections Academy)


Men's Track and Field/Cross Country
Adam Meyer, Mesa (Mesa)
Carlan Naisant, Tempe (Marcos De Niza)
Cole Riddle, Surprise (Valley Vista)
Turner Washington, Tucson (Canon Del Oro)
Jesper Wolski, Phoenix (Pinnacle)
Brandon Courtney, Goodyear (Desert Edge)
Cory Crooks, Anthem (Boulder Creek)
Josiah Kline, Tucson (Ironwood Ridge)
Chad Porter, Phoenix (Desert Vista)
Alex Torres, Phoenix (Marcos De Niza)
Women's Golf
Breyana Matthews, Scottsdale (Xavier Prep)
Ashley Menne, Surprise (Xavier Prep)

Kaitlin Harvey, Mesa (Desert Ridge)
Gracie Reeves, Phoenix (Sunnyslope)
Megan Thompson, Gilbert (Basha)
Cienna Samiley, Chandler (Chandler High School)
Gabby Abbadessa, Phoenix (Desert Vista)

Yannira Acuña, Tucson (Salpointe Catholic)
DeNae Chatman, Goodyear (Millennium)
Kiara Kennedy, Phoenix (Desert Vista)
Bella Loomis, Chandler (Hamilton)
Lindsay Lopez, San Tan Valley (Poston Butte)
Olivia Miller, Tempe (Corona del Sol)
Marissa Schuld, Scottsdale (Pinnacle)
Macy Simmons, Chandler (Hamilton)
Alynah Torres, Glendale (Cactus)
Kristiana Watson, Tucson (Ampitheater)
Callie Darst, Chandler (Hamilton)
Amanda Green, Phoenix (Desert Vista)
Jessica Hale, Phoenix (Desert Vista)
Olive Jones, Phoenix (Desert Vista)
Julia Koharko, Scottsdale (Notre Dame Prep)
Olivia Nguyen, Tempe (Corona Del Sol)
Cori Sullivan, Prescott (Prescott)
Anna White, Scottsdale (Notre Dame Prep)

Beach Volleyball
Taryn Ames, Phoenix (Desert Vista High School)
Sierra Ellett, Scottsdale (Notre Dame Prep)
Kate Fitzgerald, Scottsdale (Chaparral High School)
Cierra Flood, Phoenix (Xavier College Prep)
Lexi Sweeney, Phoenix (Arcadia High School)
Lauren Weintraub, Chandler (Chandler)
Women's Tennis
Grace Koester, Paradise Valley (Chaparral high school)

Katy Clausen, Phoenix (Desert Vista)

Women's Track and Field/Cross Country
Ma'Kayla Dickerson, Laveen (Fairfax)
Reina Ferra, Phoenix (Desert Vista)
Madalyn Fritts, Gilbert (Perry)
Sevanna Hanson, Phoenix (Desert Vista)
Jenna Lee, Scottsdale (Horizon)
Megan Reniewicki, Scottsdale (Arcadia)
Shannon Shields, Phoenix (Xavier College Preparatory)