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.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Invisible opponent sinks Gator swimmers, divers

 It was a strange day on Thursday (Sept. 17) for Xavier Prep’s swimming and diving team.

The Gators had their first meet of the season at next-door Brophy Prep, but their opponent was nowhere to be found.

The reason was safety protocols and lessening the chances of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

So Chaparral, the Division I state champion the last two years ahead of Xavier, swam its portion of the meet at its home venue, Cactus Pool in Scottsdale.

Numbers from both teams’ races were combined and when the results floated to the surface, Chaparral and its truckload of Olympic-caliber athletes scored a comfortable 129-58 victory.

“I guess you could say we did OK for the opener,’’ said Xavier head coach Mark Rankin before learning how Chaparral fared due to a later start time.

This was the first true competition in quite awhile for many of the Xavier swimmers.

“Some of them really haven’t raced in months, and that includes club,’’ Rankin said.

He lamented the number of rules and protocols the teams must deal with, such as keeping masks on when not in the pool. That part of it has not completely been installed in the girls’ memory banks, or in those of their Brophy brethren, for that matter.

“It’s something we all have to learn to do. You have to keep reminding them,’’ Rankin said.

Brophy’s crew did a good job sanitizing the blocks (platforms) after each race with a disinfectant spray.

Xavier had some noteworthy swims.

Rankin liked his sprinter, senior Kelly Scott, in the 100- and 50-yard freestyles.

“She was respectable. I am very pleased,’’ he said.

He also liked the work of junior Ashleigh Baros, who competed in two individual freestyle events as well as a couple of relays.

Senior Mia Rankin was slowed by an ear infection, but the coach expects the Ohio State commit to return to her competitive self soon.

Xavier finished 3-4-5 in diving, all by a group of promising sophomores.

Michelle Mierzwa led the way with 179.55 points, followed by Claira Chong at 162.75 and Libby Surgent at 154.20.

Xavier’s next meet will be at Brophy on Thursday (Sept. 24) against Mesa Mountain View.



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