DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Gators' Katie McCoy is a wonder in the water

Xavier Prep’s Katie McCoy has become a fashionista.
But very few people are able to wear what she wears.
That is because they must earn it, not buy it.
It is a special feeling when she drapes state-champion swimming medals around her neck after winning the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke at the recent state meet in Mesa. McCoy, a junior, helped the Gators to a fourth-place finish.
Asked about her reaction during the awards ceremony, a big smile formed on her face.
“It was mostly disbelief,’’ she said. “I didn’t believe I did it at first. In past years, I had not done as well, so this was the first time I had been on the podium in high school. And to stand at the top . . .’’

Xavier two-time swimming champ Katie McCoy.
 When McCoy touched the wall, she had someone special close by, watching the events. It was her mother, Ellen, who was helping to run the meet as an official.
Mom bent over to hug her baby, still in the water.
“Someone said, “I thought you were so excited that you were going to drag her in,’ ’’ McCoy said.
The victory in the backstroke was a special moment.
“For my entire life, it seems like every meet I was entered in the IM (medley),’’ she said. “But I thought I needed improvement in some of the strokes such as the back. All of a sudden, I became pretty good at it and I continued to work hard. To win it was amazing.’’
It is McCoy’s goal to win the events again next year, and even though she won’t graduate until 2018, she already is thinking about swimming in college.
“I would absolutely love that,’’ she said.
She has thought about a few possibilities, such as Notre Dame, Louisville or St. Louis, where her brother, Ryan, swims. He is an alumnus of Brophy Prep.
McCoy is proud of her 4.1 grade-point average. She enjoys her AP computer science classes and hopes to become a teacher, not necessarily with computers but in English and creative writing. She doesn’t have a lot of free time, but she has been editing freelance writers’ copy for an on-line archive.
Of her work with computers, she said, “It’s a lot of fun. It is just so logical. If something goes wrong with a computer, it’s usually because that’s what you told it to do. They do exactly what you tell them.’’
She wears glasses during class and elsewhere, and in the pool, she uses prescription goggles.
“They are so helpful,’’ she said. “But it’s a hassle if you lose or break them. I’ve had people come up to me and ask to borrow mine and I say, “Sorry, they’re prescription.’ ’’
Keeping up with homework is a challenge, especially when she often has two rigorous practices a day – “doubles’’ -- one for her club team, the Phoenix Swim Club, and one for Xavier. She has to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get to club practice by 5:30.
There is one practice on Saturdays, and the full day off on Sundays. She uses some of that time for homework and the rest “for about a four-hour nap.’’
This season’s team and individual finishes were exciting for McCoy and her teammates because Xavier is coached by Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin, who was in her first season. Rankin coached McCoy and some of the Gators at the Phoenix Swim Club in the past.
“Some of us saw it first-hand, but she has had a good reputation as a coach,’’ McCoy said. “We know she really understands us.’’

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