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Updated Mar 11, 2013 - 6:26 am

Yuma High's mascot earns Arizona's top honor

(Photo courtesy: Yuma High School)

Students at Yuma High School are being called Criminals, and they're happy about it!

"We are proud to be Criminals, and this is what we stand for," said Yuma High student body president Riga Orta.

The Criminal is Yuma High's mascot. It's been named as the best High School Mascot in Arizona. The Criminal won 95 percent of the online voting in the Arizona Competition for USA Today's National Best Mascot Contest. It beat out the Gila Bend Gila Monsters, the Heritage Academy Heroes, the Page San Devils and the Valley Vista Monsoon.

Yuma High Principal Faith Klostreich tells KYMA-TV that she's pretty proud of the win.

"This is a source of pride for the entire community because of the history behind the Criminals," Klostreich said.

Yuma High School started in 1909, with the first classes held at the Yuma Territorial Prison. In 1914, Yuma beat Phoenix Union for the Arizona high school football championship. Outraged Phoenix fans called the Yuma team a "bunch of criminals." The name stuck, and was adopted by the Yuma School Board three years later.

The mascot now moves on to the next round of the national contest, were it will be competing in an online vote with mascots from all 50 states. Orta said Yuma students are going all out to win.

"I walk around some of the computer monitors in classes and stuff and I see some of the students online voting," said Orta. "We want to win this. We want the pride."

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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