Xavier College Prep captured a memorable Arizona Division I girls swimming title on Saturday. It wasn’t memorable because of the score, or who won the final points. It was memorable because of the coach, or perhaps coaches.
As reported by Swimming World Magazine, Xavier was coached at the state championship meet by Mark Rankin. Rankin’s daughter, Mia, was one of the team’s star swimmers, a 500 free racer who reached the state final as a true freshman.
And Mark Rankin was the second member of the Rankin family to coach the team in 2017. His wife, Maureen “Mo” Rankin, led the program until seven weeks earlier, when she died after a long fight with bladder cancer. When she passed away, her husband stepped forward to coach the team for the remainder of the season.
“The therapy kind of hit her pretty hard,” Mark Rankin told Swimming World. “She was mostly there on deck, but she had to get away from her day job. This was early August. She was maintaining for a little while, coaching the workouts, but she was starting to really not feel good at all—having trouble getting out of bed, really sore.”
For her part, Mia finished second in her state final, a fitting result for one of the most determined swimmers in the state. Per Swimming World, her competition became a refuge.
“It was a reminder, but it was also a good reminder,” Mia Rankin told Swimming World. “Every time I think about racing, I think about her and how she would want me to go fast, and it helped a lot.”
It was a remarkable finish to a remarkable season tinged with tragedy and triumph, with each victory and point in the state final serving as a testament to one team’s ability to rise above to honor a beloved coach.