Here are five things to watch at the Missouri high school girls swimming and diving state meet meet, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the St. Peters (Mo.) Rec-Plex.
1. The climb into state-title contention has been a steady one for Park Hill South. Over a three-year span, the Panthers moved from 18th place in 2012 to a third-place finish last February.
But despite all the program’s progress, it remains without a state championship.
Might this be the year?
The Panthers have their fastest team in program history, and they enter the state meet as the leading threat to dethrone defending-champion Rock Bridge.
In what’s expected to be a tightly-contested competition for the title, the three relay races could play a prominent role in determining the state champion. Park Hill South is ranked No. 1 in the 200-yard freestyle relay, third in the 200 medley relay and seventh in the 400 free relay.
2. If Park Hill South is to reach its ultimate goal Saturday, senior Tori Beeler will need to deliver a big day.
She typically does.
Beeler has already won three state titles in individual swims, including two last February. She enters the state meet ranked first in the 200 individual medley — an event she has won in back-to-back seasons — and third in the 100 freestyle. She will also participate on two of the three relay teams.
3. The 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke present the strongest contingent of Kansas City-area swimmers.
In the 100 butterfly, seven Kansas City-area swimmers are ranked among the top 20 — Lee’s Summit West senior Sarah Raymond, Park Hill South sophomore Paige Riekhof, Staley senior Hannah Palmeter, Blue Springs South sophomore Kirsten Markley, Kearney sophomore Morgan Bonderer, Park Hill South senior Maggie Hickey and Blue Springs South sophomore Lauren Markley.
In the 100 breaststroke, five are seeded in the top 20 — Park Hill South senior Anna Riekhof, Park Hill South junior Allison Garrett, Platte County junior Hannah Havemeier, Park Hill South junior Kirsten Aken and North Kansas City sophomore Allie Dillingham.
4. But while those two events could feature the most Kansas City-area swimmers to reach the podium, some top talent is littered throughout the other swimming events, too.
Park Hill South freshman Georgia Clark is seeded sixth in both the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke; Staley sophomore Rachel Janiak is sixth in the 500 freestyle; and Oak Park junior Allee Armitage is seeded eighth in the 200 freestyle.
5. From a field of 51 competitors, Notre Dame de Sion seniors Margaret Brandmeyer and Rebecca Jacobs and Blue Springs South sophomore Bailey Carter reached the finals of the one-meter diving event last season before settling for finishes outside the top five.
They’re back for another try.
Brandmeyer is the top KC area returner after placing eighth in the one-meter diving event last season. Carter will carry some momentum into the meet after she won the Suburban Gold Conference title earlier this month.