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.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Remembering Coach "Mo": She did it the right way

I really enjoyed working with Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin, who took over as Xavier Prep swimming coach in the fall of 2016 and had the Gators on track for a possible state championship this season.

The former University of Arizona swimmer and club coach in the Valley knew how to deal with her athletes because she had been one. She knew when to push the discipline button and when to let up and switch to the fun button.

This year’s team is filled with talented swimmers and divers, many of them freshmen, including Rankin’s daughter, Mia. They have already shown a great deal of talent and maturity beyond their years.

Rankin had hoped to continue to see them flourish, all the way to the state meet.

Sadly, that will not happen. Coach Rankin passed away early on Monday (Sept. 25) after battling cancer. She was treated for the disease over the last year and was confident things were back to normal as the season was set to begin. We occasionally talked about cancer because I also had it and had some minor surgery.

Swimming coach Maureen "Mo'' Rankin was a great asset to the Xavier community.

Except that I had skin cancer. Compared to what she had, it was a drop in the bucket. We would ask how the other was feeling.

I went to visit her and the XCP swimmers during their intrasquad meet at Brophy on Aug. 25.

For a few moments, we slipped into a nearby cool office to chat. She seemed a bit preoccupied, aside from the usual things a coach as to do to keep everybody on schedule.

“How are you doing?’’ I asked.

Color drained from her face. She looked toward the floor, sighed and nearly broke into tears.

“It’s back,’’ she said.

Hearing that nearly took my breath away. I knew how hard she had worked to come back and now this . . .

She also had become a valuable member of the office staff, working in the school’s finance department. She seemed to be enjoying it.

My wife and I prayed for her and her family, her husband, Mark, Mia, and son Luke. And her swimmers.

A week or so later, Rankin sent a note to the athletic office that was forwarded to staffers, thanking everyone for their support.

I sent a note to her, saying that she was in my thoughts and prayers.

“I have worked with you long enough to know that you will fight this thing in every way possible, with strength and humility,’’ I wrote.

She thanked me and wrote, “I plan on beating this. I’ve done it once already.’’

Strength, humility, faith and more. Her family, swimmers and those of us in the Xavier community should all be proud of her.

Rest in peace, Coach Mo.

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