All along, it was something that Xavier Prep’s swimming and diving team wanted. It was something the Gators needed.
And on Saturday (Nov. 4), they reached their goal.
They earned their first Division I state crown since 2012 and 28th overall in honor of their late coach, Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin, who died of cancer on Sept. 25.
XCP did it by powering past Chandler High 321-263 while winning two of the three relay events at the Skyline Aquatic Center in east Mesa and finishing second in the third relay. Individually, they were led by senior Kaitlyn McCoy, who won two events for the second straight year.
Xavier Gators celebrate an emotional swim and dive championship. (Xavier photo).
Rankin’s husband, Mark, who helped Jenny James coach the team after she took over for Mo, was emotional, as one might expect.
The crowd paused for a minute of silence before the meet began. The Xavier swimmers wore T-shirts with Mo’s advice to them: “Feel Your Power,’’ along with #mostronger as a social-media magnet.
And before the final results were announced, the Coach of the Year award (voted by the coaches) was posthumously awarded to Mo. Mark accepted and raised the plaque above his head while gazing at the sky that was a beautiful orange color at dusk.
Then Mark joined James and the rest of the team in a celebratory dip in the pool. The Pointer Sisters’ “We Are Family’’ song played in the background.
As Mark toweled off, he couldn’t help but marvel at the turn of events.
“It is an unforgettable feeling. It has been a special year,’’ he said. “We (coaches and athletes) talked about the foundation that Mo had built, and we knew we had to do something special. We’ve been talking to her a lot lately. We are very proud, and we know she would be also.’’
Said James: “I am overwhelmed with pride and what the girls did. They swam their hearts out. We are so excited to win state.’’
In the days shortly after Mo’s passing, James said the team would win the state title for her.
Mark said that in the days before the state meet, the coaches tried to figure out who of the Gators would score what and how it might lead to a title.
“It started the first day (Friday) and continued today. We had no mishaps,’’ he said.
One of the top individual efforts by the Gators did not produce a victory, but almost. Freshman Mia Rankin, the 14-year-old daughter of Mo and Mark, went back and forth in a tremendous duel with Chandler High’s Destiny Kling in the 500-yard freestyle. Kling barely touched the wall first, edging out Mia by .18 seconds.
“I thought I had it,’’ Mia said. “It was still great to get up on the (awards) podium, especially since I am a freshman.
“I am so happy with how things turned out. I was brought to tears by all of the support. I know it’s been awhile since Xavier won, and I know my mom would be so proud. I am really excited to be a part of high school swimming like this.’’
Mia also finished third in the 200-yard individual medley and swam a leg on the 400-yard freestyle relay that finished second to Chandler.
McCoy, meanwhile, won the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke, achieving All-American status for her time in the latter event. She also swam in a pair of relays, the victorious 200-yard medley and the 400 free.
“This whole situation gave us something to fight for,’’ McCoy said. “We know coach Mo is looking down on us. All of us were crying.’’
All state championships are memorable, but this certainly will not be forgotten by anyone.
200-yard medley relay – Xavier 1st, 1:45.97 (Kaitlyn McCoy, Paola Guerra, Olivia Paliscak, Mary Roediger).
200-yard freestyle “B’ final – Vica Dow 15th (1:58.21).
200-yard individual medley – McCoy 1st (2:03.07), Mia Rankin 3rd (2:04.68), Sydney Millane 8th (2:13.91).
50-yard freestyle – Roediger 3rd (24.32). “B’’ final – Paliscak 10th (25.06), Kelly Scott 12th (25.10).
1-meter diving – Madeline Sewell 10th (368.35), Alyssa Largay 11th (366.15), Talle Donley 17th (230.65), Molly Cahill 24th (142.55).
100-yard butterfly “B” final – Paliscak 10th (58.94), Haley Hubbard 12th (59.51).
100-yard freestyle – Dow 6th (53.74). “B’ final – Scott 12th (54.41).
500-yard freestyle – Rankin 2nd (4:55.93). ”B’ final – Maddie Wright 12th (5:16.08), Carlie Hermann 14th (5:20.46).
200-yard freestyle relay – Xavier 1st, 1:38.22 (Paliscak, Roediger, Scott, Guerra).
100-yard backstroke – McCoy 1st (55:05). “B’ final – Millane 9th (59.79).
100-yard breaststroke – Roediger 2nd (1:06.61), Guerra 3rd (1:06.73).
400-yard freestyle relay – Xavier 2nd, 3:32.43 (Wright, McCoy, Rankin, Dow).
Xavier Prep 321, Chandler High 263, Mesa Mountain View 238 ½, Mesa Red Mountain 186 ½, Phoenix Pinnacle 160, Chandler Hamilton 144, Gilbert Highland 137, Phoenix Desert Vista 132, Anthem Boulder Creek 115, Gilbert High 90, Gilbert Perry 88, Scottsdale Desert Mountain 64, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 58 ½, Tucson High 52, Mesa Desert Ridge 48, Tucson Rincon/University 43 ½, Phoenix Horizon 34, Mesa Skyline 31, Mesa Westwood 29, Mesa High 26, Surprise Valley Vista 24, Glendale Mountain Ridge 20, Chandler Basha 4, Mesa Dobson 4.