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‘Super Fan’ leaves his mark at U.A.

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When he left the cold winters of Michigan in 1976 even Joe Flanarty himself didn’t realize the deep roots he would dig. He fell in love with a university and town and never left. Now a retired high school teacher and aspiring women’s basketball coach William “Joe” Joseph Flanarty acquired the nickname “Super Fan” among University of Arizona athletes years before he ever realized. Joe manages to assert himself as the most conspicuous fan of U of A athletics. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall with a head full of bright white hair and undoubtedly head-to-toe in U of A gear, he appears just about everywhere. He and his sidekick, Joe Johnson, pal around and attend open practices to critique new talent and offer unsolicited help where they see fit. They are often spotted sending off U of A athletes...

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Bisbee run a stairway to heaving

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  On a cold, rainy, Saturday morning that I would’ve rather spent in the comfort of my own bed, I drove two hours to Bisbee to compete in the only competitive stair climb in the United States. When I first agreed to participate in the 25th annual Bisbee 1000 Great Stair Climb to write this story, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The 4.5 mile course that winds through the quaint town isn’t for the faint of heart. It features a 1,175 foot elevation change throughout the race as well as nine staircases that feature a total of 1,004 steps. Full disclosure: I had never run 1,000 steps in my life, and certainly not the uneven, cracked concrete variety that I’d come across in Bisbee. With my mouth dry, legs burning, and lungs gasping for...

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Passion for hoops sustains Arizona fervor

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University of Arizona basketball earns money even when the players play themselves. No other Pac-12 program comes close to making money in a pre-season scrimmage. In 2014, U.A.’s Red-Blue game grossed nearly $100,000. This year’s game sold out in 11 days. For five years straight the scrimmage sold out as Arizona fans flock to the McKale Center to evaluate the new talent and see their favorite returners compete. With Arizona super fans, a sold out student section (Zona Zoo), and crusaders who line up outside the McKale Center at sunrise for a 7 p.m. game time, one must beg the question: “Why?” Undoubtedly, the Wildcats have seen massive success throughout the program’s existence. In recent years the Cats have dominated the Conference of Champions with ease generating more passionate fans and an expectation of winning. But is a history...

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Brains and Byrne behind the brand

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  ESPN’s College GameDay coming to Tucson marks a rite of passage for University of Arizona athletics. The UA brand is sticking. After years of constructing the university’s reputation, Athletic Director Greg Byrne has hit a landmark with GameDay’s appearance. It part of a long-term strategy to extend the recognition of the Block A around the nation. And by all accounts, he has been wildly successful. A dramatic removal of a head coach and the appointment of a former Big-10 head coach in 2011 kick started the UA brand revolution. When Byrne snagged Rich Rodriguez in 2011, construction for the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility was scheduled to break ground at the beginning of 2012. With a new coach and facility, Byrne was forging the groundwork for progress. The University of Arizona basketball program has held serious weight in the Division 1...

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Game and Fish shining spotlight on poachers

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Needlessly cruel and financially costly, poachers in Arizona can be destructive to both wildlife and the state as well as difficult to track or capture but public education and cell phone availability has led to an increase in tips. There are different actions that fall under poaching in Arizona and depend on the weapons used, the hunting season, licensing and tactics. The basic idea of poaching is explained by Mark Hart, the region five public information officer for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “In the simplest definition it is taking wildlife without a proper license or a permit, that’s illegal take, you also have to take it in season,” Hart said. The executive director of Safari Club International’s Arizona chapter, Bobby Boido, commented on the stance of the club and legitimate hunters during a phone interview. “As a...

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Rescue rangers ramp up for summer in national parks

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National park rangers in Arizona are preparing for the annual summer surge of slips, trips, falls and rescues. Each year, more than 10 million people visit the 22 national parks, monuments and historic sites in Arizona. And each year, hundreds of those people are rescued. “Prevention is huge,” said Christian Malcolm, who leads the Preventive Search and Rescue program at Grand Canyon National Park. “You want to do everything you can to educate your population.” The most common rescues in Arizona’s national parks involve heat-related illnesses and visitors who are unprepared or unfit, said Kenneth Phillips, the National Park Service-wide coordinator for emergency services, based in Flagstaff. In 2014, national parks around the country responded to 2,658 search-and-rescue incidents, including injuries, illnesses, fatalities, lost visitors, and most of all, people who were unprepared or unfit for the activities they...

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Arizona geocachers banned from land

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The Arizona State Trust Land Department officially banned geocaching on their grounds last year, saying the outdoor recreation violates state policy against litter, according to Eric Schudiske, spokesman for Groundspeak, operators of the Geocaching website that provides a centralized repository of caches nationally. Hundreds of thousands of geocaches in the state are in jeopardy of never being found again due to the ban, Schudiske said. “There’s been a big rift between (the state) and the geocaching community,” Schudiske said. Geocaching (geo-cashing) is a recreational sport where participants use GPS devices to locate hidden treasures placed in the wild. Small containers are hidden containing a logbook and trinket for visitors. Participants then usually trade an item of equal value to leave for the next geocacher to discover. Arizona is in the top tier of geocaching states in the country, sitting...

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Bike-share programs spreading in Arizona

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Bright green bikes are spreading through the state. Last fall, Phoenix collaborated with CycleHop and Social Bicycles to launch Arizona’s first bike share program, Grid Bike Share. Members reserve one of 500 bikes from among 50 stations planted in downtown Phoenix. Tucson, Tempe and Mesa are not far behind. “The more people we get riding a bicycle with the understanding that the bicycle is part of a multimodal system of getting around the city and a potential part of eliminating congestion and a lot of problems that cars produce, the better,” said Giovanni Arico, manager for Grid Bike Share. More than 600 cities around the world utilize bike share systems, according to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy based in New York City. In the United States, 77 cities are either operating or launching a bike share program....

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Miss Rita: Bringing heart and soul to Arizona football

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It’s impossible to miss her big smile and bright blonde hair bouncing through the football facility. If you know anything about Arizona football, then you know who Coach Rich Rodriguez is. But if you know the ins and outs of the team, you know “Miss Rita” Rodriguez. Rita grew up playing sports and has loved football for as long as she can remember. She attended Fairmont State College for three years and then met Rich. She transferred to West Virginia University, where she cheered and he played football, and they’ve been a team ever since. Throughout Rich’s career, Rita has been his never-ending encouragement. When he was coaching at Glenville, W.Va., State College the budget was small and they relied on volunteer help. Rita did her share. The field didn’t have an emblem on it and she wanted to...

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Youth soccer on the rise in Arizona

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More and more Arizona youth are taking up soccer as they look up to the stars in the FIFA World Cup and Major League Soccer. The Arizona Youth Soccer Association, a Phoenix-based group that governs youth soccer for the entire state, reported participation by boys and girls spiking from 31,504 in 2013 to 40,078 this past year, a 27 percent increase “With the increased popularity of soccer and the growth in our state, we would be excited to reach our goal of over 50,000 players by the year 2017,” said Kelleigh Evans, administrative assistant for the soccer association. The group oversees more than 70 youth clubs spread throughout Arizona as well as the Olympic Development Program state team, which hosts annual tryouts to identify the best talent in the state for competition in national tournaments. According to Evans and Wendy Anaya,...

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