Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Challenge awaits XCP champion swimmers, divers

What kind of chance will Xavier Prep’s swimmers and divers have to repeat as Division I state champion in 2018?

The Gators will find out in their first meet of the season on Aug. 30 when they travel to face Scottsdale Chaparral at Cactus Pool in Scottsdale.

Xavier defeated Chandler for the D-l title and Chaparral now is D-I after a big 283-point win over Tucson Catalina Foothills for the Division II crown last season. The Firebirds feature some nationally ranked swimmers.

“Chaparral is dominant, so we are going to see where we are,’’ said Mark Rankin, who took over the program after his wife, Maureen, passed away in September after battling cancer. Rankin is assisted by Jennifer James.

Xavier, which held its annual intrasquad meet on Friday (Aug. 24) at the Brophy pool, should be strongest with its relays and its divers. The Gators also figure to have a strong freshman class as it did last year.

“We are looking really good right now,’’ Rankin said.

Winning the big-school title should give the Gators momentum.

The coaching situation last season allowed all of the athletes become much closer. The girls also will be doing more team-bonding activities.

One of the team’s top individual performers is the Rankins’ daughter, Mia, a sophomore who finished second by just .18 seconds in the 500-yard freestyle at state, helped the 400-yard freestyle relay team finish second and finished third in the 200-yard individual medley.

Other key returnees are junior Vica Dow, senior Izzy Gomez, sophomore Paola Guerra, senior Maggie Hull, sophomore Sydney Millane, junior Olivia Paliscak, junior Maddie Wright and sophomore Kelly Scott.

Rankin wants his swimmers to be versatile and be capable of swimming in different events than they are used to if needed.

On Thursday (Aug. 23), the day before the intrasquad meet, Rankin put the swimmers through their paces with a lot of distance work to help build their endurance.

“A lot of these girls are year-round swimmers, so they know what to expect,’’ he said.

In diving, junior Maddy Sewell and senior Alyssa Largay finished 10th and 11th overall at state, respectively, and should be able to climb into the top 10. Senior Molly Cahill will return. Senior Talle Donley has been sidelined with an injury but still will be involved with the program. Coach Frank Pipitone also has a promising group of newcomers. He is assisted by Laura Forbes.

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