Best College Athlete 2017 | Maggie Ewen | Fun & Games | Phoenix

Maggie Ewen learned the hammer throw as a child in a barn on her family's farm in Minnesota. But this hammer has nothing to do with building a barn. The women's hammer is a nine-pound steel ball attached to a four-foot chain, which the ASU junior spun around and around until she hurled it farther than any other female athlete in NCAA history. Ewen won the 2017 NCAA hammer throw with a collegiate record of 70.32 meters (240 feet, seven inches for those of you who haven't converted to metric yet). She also finished second in the discus and sixth in the nation in shot put. And she won all three events in the Pac-12 championships. Ewen was named the 2017 Outdoor Women's National Field Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Obviously, she's long since outgrown throwing the hammer and the shot and the discus in the barn — or else that barn has a lot of holes in it.

Best Teenage Athlete Destined to Become a Millionaire

DeAndre Ayton

Actually, as you read this, DeAndre Ayton would already be a millionaire except for an arcane National Basketball Association rule that demands high school athletes must pretend to attend college, wink, wink, for at least a semester before they can sign an eight-figure contract. Ayton is from the Bahamas, but for two years, he attended something called Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix. The 7-footer led the so-called high school team, which is sponsored by Nike (seriously) to a 33-6 record this past season. He averaged 27.9 points, 18.2 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, and 3.3 assists. Local fans won't be happy that he'll fulfill his required college experience at the University of Arizona, but by June he'll be gone from Tucson, as he's already projected as a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Which means if the Suns are bad enough again, he could return to Phoenix to play professionally, this time for real. Another Phoenix teen, Marvin Bagley III, will also go high in the draft, but he's headed for Duke University first, and we're not such big Duke fans.

Why stay in school when you can go work for the NBA's Phoenix Suns and become a millionaire? Heading into the season, the Suns had five designated drivers on the team — and that had nothing to do with their ability to take the ball to the hoop. Shooting guard sensation Devin Booker, power forwards Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, and small forwards Josh Jackson and Derrick Jones Jr. are all 20 years old or younger — not even old enough to drink legally. And all but Jackson, a rookie, are already NBA veterans. They each left college after their freshman year, as did 20-somethings Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. At the end of last season, with several veterans sidelined by injury, the Suns' roster was younger than all the college teams that reached the NCAA Final Four in Glendale. Four Suns — Booker and point guards Knight, Bledsoe, and Tyler Ulis — are products of the one-and-done college basketball factory otherwise known as the University of Kentucky, a school that regularly hires, er, enrolls, top players for a year as required by NBA rules, then sends them off to professional riches. But if the Suns kids want to know what the college experience was really like — well, it won't do any good to chat with the team's old man, 34-year-old Tyson Chandler. Back in the day, when it was allowed, he went to the NBA directly from his high school graduation.

Arizona-themed apparel by the local clothing company State Forty Eight has been one of our favorite ways to show off our desert-dweller pride since 2013. So we were thrilled earlier this year when the Arizona Diamondbacks announced that the clothier was partnering with the team for the 2017 season. As a part of the collaboration, the Rally-backs (those nice girls who throw free T-shirts at people) have been outfitted in State Forty Eight gear this season, and several cool shirt designs have been available at the D-backs Team Shop at Chase Field and on the State Forty Eight website. (We're partial to the vintage-style baseball tee emblazoned with the word Arizona in the D-backs font and a simple line drawing of the state.) Also, the team gave away 20,000 State Forty Eight-designed shirts at a home game in July, ensuring there are a lot of stylish sports fans walking around town these days.

Let's face it — there's no bad place to watch spring training in Arizona. If you're at a game, you're likely either retired, on vacation, or skipping work. Many fans favor the grander stadiums like Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, where our Diamondbacks play, and the new digs in Mesa for the World Champion (doesn't that sound strange?) Chicago Cubs. But we agree with Texas baseball fan and author Dan Hammond (Delbert Judd, The Solomon Twist). He prefers the stadium in Peoria, spring training home of the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners. It has more of a "minor-league feel," says Hammond, who was an average high school player. "Nothing beats sitting on a low row behind the manager and coaches when they sit outside the dugout." You don't just learn strategy, he says, you also learn who is watching the game and who is watching some of the women in the stands.

A solid, panoramic view of the mountains that make Phoenix "the Valley" usually comes at a premium price point. If a plane ticket, a cushy bank job on the top floor, or a high-end resort cocktail all sound out of your league, try the Biltmore parking garage, why don't you? Sure, the once-charming shopping mall has gone the way of the rest of the malls in Phoenix, and now feels more bougie than bohemian, but we are here to tell you that a good, old-fashioned, cheap thrill can still be had. When you arrive at the mall, head straight for the four-level parking garage on the north side. That sunlit stairwell you always pass without noticing? That's your ticket to paradise. Climb past the floors of employee parking until you get to the top, where virtually no one is parked, and then take a deep breath. The cross-breeze will reward your climb (and clear away the exhaust fumes), and you'll be left with the best, free, 360-degree view of our fair city. Shhh, don't tell anyone — we don't want them to start charging us for it.

If Phoenix is known for anything besides the "dry" heat and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, it's our Technicolor sunsets. The cotton-candy pinks, dandelion yellows, and dusty purples lining any lingering clouds paint our desert sky and are sure to fill your eyes, and definitely your Facebook feed, with wonder. But if you truly want to watch the desert become a piece of art during the golden hour, drive east out of town to the base of the Superstition Mountains. Lost Dutchman State Park becomes a living watercolor as the sun dips below the horizon, especially during the cloudy, dusty monsoon season. The fading light refracting and dancing across the results of volatile ancient volcanoes showcases just how beautiful our harsh landscape can be. If these descriptions sound a little flowery, just wait until you see the waning sun radiate through a field of cholla cactuses, and you'll be waxing poetic, too.

On any given day, James Turrell’s Knight Rise skyspace installation at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is an interesting component of the museum, a concrete enclosure equipped only with a narrow entrance, concrete bench, and elliptical opening in the ceiling. But at sunrise on the day of the winter solstice, and sunset on the day on the summer solstice, SMoCA invites the community to come into the skyspace to appreciate the beauty of nature in a unique way. The design of Knight Rise produces an optical illusion in which the sky seems to descend into the space while appearing as a disc of shifting color. The nominal fee for the SMoCA solstice events usually includes beverages and snacks, making it a magical way to mark the passage of time.
The Supes, as locals call the range, soar above all other Phoenix-area crags in both height and spirit. The western cliff faces — the volcanic rock colored a soft brown — rise to more than 5,000 feet and can be seen from most anywhere in metro Phoenix. In rainy weather, they brood like dark giants, their upper reaches in the clouds. This is the Valley’s Yosemite, a place of incredible vistas, gravity-defying rock hoodoos, and a lush Sonoran ecosystem that’s home to elusive desert animals like coatimundis, javelinas, and bighorn sheep. Don’t mistake this federal wilderness preserve for just another mountain park. It comprises about 240 square miles — bigger than Scottsdale and Tempe combined. Take it easy on the short trails around Lost Dutchman State Park, gazing in awe at circling hawks and plains that erupt with color in wildflower season. Or take it hard, pushing your physical limits to the top of steep trails like Siphon Draw. Rock climbers can challenge themselves here on the tallest routes in the Phoenix area. Whatever you do, be prepared for adventure — and that means taking enough water for your hike, especially if the weather is warm. Every few years, people searching for the fabled Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine traipse deep into Superstition Mountains with homemade treasure maps — and are never seen alive again. But don’t fret — most Superstitions visitors enjoy this natural treasure without any problems bigger than a blister. You’ve seen them from afar — now go experience them at their best, up close and personal.
In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was the structure that held the ferocious Minotaur captive. Fast-forward thousands of years, and labyrinths are more commonly used as tools of meditation and reflection. That’s the case at the Franciscan Renewal Center, an oasis of calm in the heart of Scottsdale. The labyrinth is a flat path bordered by stones where the public is invited to walk in quiet contemplation. There’s no cost to use it or reservations needed; the labyrinth is open when the center is, from early in the morning to mid-evening, all year round. There’s something about the mindfulness required to navigate the gently winding path that makes the cares of the world drop away, and while there’s no monster in this labyrinth, it does an admirable job of soothing worried minds and anxious spirits.

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