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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Swimmers, divers face big challenge in first meet

Things are coming to a boil for Xavier Prep’s swimmers and divers, and we’re not just talking about the Jacuzzi-type water for a recent afternoon practice at next-door Brophy Prep.

“It’s not very refreshing,’’ said one simmering swimmer.

The Gators aren’t ready to cool down just yet.

They will heat up for real on Thursday (Sept. 5), when they face Scottsdale Chaparral, the defending Division I champion (Xavier was runner-up) in the first meet of the season at Cactus Pool in Scottsdale.

Xavier returns virtually everyone who scored at the state meet, as do the Firebirds.

Top returning diver for Xavier is senior Maddy Sewell, who finished in 11th place at state. That was one spot behind teammate Alyssa Largay, who graduated and now is diving at the U.S. Naval Academy.

“We will be better, but so will they,’’ said Xavier coach Mark Rankin of Chaparral, which has some national-caliber swimmers cutting through the water.

Most of the Gators endured lengthy workouts over the summer at Phoenix Country Day School with their Phoenix Swim Club teammates. Rankin, who is assisted by Jenny James, thinks this team is in much better condition than it was at this point a year ago.

Being in the right frame of mind will be the key for Xavier, not only in this meet, but in the ones that follow leading up to the state meet later this fall.

“We are not discouraged,’’ said Xavier senior freestyler and relay participant Maddie Wright. “This will be a good way for us to gauge where we’re at.’’

Wright’s good friend is junior Mia Rankin, the daughter of Mark Rankin and his late wife, Maureen “Mo’’ Rankin, the former Xavier coach who passed away in September 2017.

Mia also is strong in the freestyle events, and finished third at state in the 200-yard individual medley. Mark Rankin said she has the potential to break the 2-minute mark in the 200 this season.

“We want to do as well as we can in as many events as we can. If we can do that, the points will start to add up,’’ Mia said.

“We are really excited about the season. We have four good captains – Maddie, Gracie Schumaker (senior), Emili Palmisano (senior) and Olivia Paliscak (senior).’’

Wright said she and Mia complement each other well in the freestyle events.

“Mia does very well in distance and I think I am more of a sprinter,’’ said Wright, who was the anchor in Xavier’s third-place 200-yard freestyle relay and was the second leg in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

“You’re not just swimming for yourself in the relay. You have to be strong for the other three,’’ Wright said.

Added Mia: “You have to be cheering them on.’’

One swimmer who will be drawing a lot of cheers will be sophomore Gracie Munk.

Mark Rankin said versatile Munk has a chance to finish in the top eight at state in four different events – the 200-yard medley relay (XCP state champs), the 400-yard freestyle relay, the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke.

Scott, Pao Guerra and Jordan Herrera figure to carry the banner of the junior class well in various events.

And don’t be surprised to see some points come from a pair of talented freshmen – Dylan Miller and Lainey Weiland. Rankin said he has not decided which events will work best for them yet, but said they are capable of more than one.


(Listed alphabetically)

Brittany Barnwell, Jr.; Ashleigh Baros, So.; Ana Bhatti, So.; Morgan Brown, Sr.; Claira Chong, Fr.

Maryn Day, Fr.; Vica Dow, Sr.; Kiera Gregg, So.; Paola Guerra, Jr.

Regan Gunzy, Jr.; Jordan Herrera, Jr.; Carlia Herrmann, Sr.; Haley Hubbard, Sr.; Grace Hull, So.; Ali Jasinski, Sr.; Mia Joslin, Sr.; Anna Leone, Jr.; Daisy Maldonado, So.; Michelle Mierzwa, Fr.

Dylan Miller, Fr.; Gracie Munk, So.; Hope Nolan, So.; Olivia Paliscak, Sr.; Emili Palmisano, Sr.; Mia Rankin, Jr.

Gracie Schumaker, Sr.; Kelly Scott, Jr.; Maddy Sewell, Sr.; Emma Sharp, Jr.; Libby Sargent, Fr.; Lainey Weiland, Fr.; Maddie Weiland, Jr.; Cassie Worth, Fr.; Maddie Wright, Sr.



200-yard medley relay – Xavier 1st,1:46.18 (Gracie Munk, Paola Guerra, Olivia Paliscak, Kelly Scott).

200-yard freestyle – Maddie Wright, 4th, 1:51.79; Jordan Herrera, 8th, 1:56.32.

200-yard individual medley – Mia Rankin, 3rd, 2:03.57.

1-meter diving – Alyssa Largay, 10th; Maddy Sewell, 11th; Samantha Klein, 14th.

100-yard butterfly – Gracie Munk, 5th, 57.24; Jordan Herrera, 8th, 58.33.

100-yard freestyle – Vica Dow, 8th, 53.92.

500-yard freestyle – Mia Rankin, 2nd, 4:51.59; Maddie Wright, 6th, 5:05.49.

200-yard freestyle relay – Xavier 3rd, 1:38.07 (Kelly Scott, Olivia Paliscak, Vica Dow, Maddie Wright).

100-yard backstroke – Gracie Munk, 2nd, 56.81.

100-yard breaststroke – Paola Guerra, 5th, 1:06.84.

400-yard freestyle relay – Xavier 2nd, 3:31.65 (Gracie Munk, Maddie Wright, Vica Dow, Mia Rankin).

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