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.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Senior swimmer Gomez reflects on her time at XCP

The Xavier Prep swimmers and divers have churned and splashed in the water at the Brophy Aquatics Center and elsewhere for quite some time this fall, but for some, it may seem more like the blink of an eye.

Especially the seniors. Thursday (Sept. 27) marked the Gators’ final home dual meet of the season (they will have the AMDG Invitational on Oct. 27), so the team held its Senior Day during its meet against Anthem Boulder Creek.

Three swimmers, two divers and three team managers were honored with tributes from teammates and tokens of appreciation, such as flowers.

One of the seniors was Izzy Gomez, who has endured many ups, along with a few downs, along the way. She is swimming for her third set of coaches in four years. Through it all, she has remained a loyal Gator.

She knew this would be the last day, but it didn’t seem to hit her until she began to talk about it.

Gomez, whose specialty is freestyle events, including relays, laughed with her teammates and hung out under the blue Xavier canopy where coaches Mark Rankin and Jennifer James were monitoring the team’s progress.

“This day is a little bittersweet,’’ Gomez said. “I will have to leave all of my teammates and my wonderful coaches, and that will be hard.’’

The other seniors likely would echo those sentiments.

“My teammates have been there for me, cheering me on, making me feel better if things didn’t go the way I had hoped, and making me laugh,’’ she said.

Swimming was all about fun when Gomez arrived at Xavier as a freshman. As a sophomore, she and her teammates were introduced to a new coach, Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin, who emphasized the seriousness of the tasks ahead but realized that kids are still kids and they need to be silly every now and again.

Then last year, when Gomez was a junior, things came crashing down on everyone when Mo had a recurrence of a previous cancer. She fought hard, but did not survive, passing away on Sept. 25. Her husband, Mark, and James helped guide the girls through the darkness.

The season was dedicated to Mo, and the team vowed to win the state championship.

They stayed true to that and had one of the strongest performances of any Xavier team in quite some time.

“After she died, we became even more of a team,’’ Gomez said. “It was great to be able to dedicate everything to her.

“Mo was really supportive of me and my teammates. She got me through some mental blocks. She always asked me how I was doing, not just in my swimming, but more than that, with my life outside of swimming.’’

Gomez hopes to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson, where she would like to earn a degree in the medical field.

Her journey has not been much different than those of her teammates, past, present and those who will remain when she graduates. She has had some good moments in the pool and some challenges, and will leave Xavier with a complete experience.

And you can’t ask for much more than that.

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