A third-place team finish at the 2014 Missouri high school state swimming meet supplied the Park Hill South High School girls team with a new school record.
It simultaneously set the tone for the following season.
With the majority of the contributors from last season’s record-setting team back this year — now full of confidence and motivation — the Panthers have determined another third-place showing won’’ be good enough.
Not this time.
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“They believe they have a shot at first this year, or definitely second,” Panthers coach Tim Busenhart said. “They see that as a really good possibility with who we have back and the new freshmen added in. That’s a goal of theirs, and it’s a goal of mine, too.”
It appears within reach, too.
Park Hill South continued its impressive season with 12 top-five showings in the Kansas City Classic over the weekend. The Panthers finished second place in the team standings, behind only Lincoln Southwest, the reigning Nebraska state champions. Oak Park was fifth, Park Hill was sixth and Liberty North took ninth.
The Panthers’ day was absent any individual victories, but they were well-represented on the podium.
Tori Beeler was second in the 100 backstroke, third in the 50 freestyle an a participant on the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay teams, both of which took second. The Panthers were also second in the 200 freestyle relay.
Allison Garrett took second in the 100 freestyle, with Maggie Hickey taking fifth in the same event. Garrett was also one of three Panthers to place in the top-five of the 100 breaststroke, with Anna Riekhof second, Kirsten Aken third and Garrett fifth. Paige Riekhof was third in both the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly.
“We have a lot of depth on our team, and we’ve been dominate at a lot of meets this year because of that,” Busenhart said. “This was a really good experience for the girls because they were really pushed.”
Lincoln Southwest provided the bulk of the competition, but the 21-team meet included a bevy of other local swimmers who recorded top-five finishes.
Oak Park did its damage in the relay races. It placed fourth in the 400 freestyle relay with a team of Allee Armitage, Ty Foxworthy, Annie Bensyl and Hannah Rupard, and the same lineup took fifth in the 200 yard medley relay.
“I was very pleased with our performance,” Oak Park coach Ian Johnston said. “This is always a great meet for us, and the girls really showed up and performed well ... For us to finish fifth with only five swimmers and no divers (earning points) is quite an accomplishment.”
Park Hill earned its sixth-place standing with the help of two major contributors — Nani Welsh and Madison Heydinger.
Welsh took fourth in the 200 freestyle and third in the 100 freestyle. Heydinger was fifth in both the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. They were both part of the third-place 200 freestyle relay team, along with Rebecca Shaw and Meg Feeley.
Staley’s Rachel Janiak also recorded a pair of top-five finishes — she was third in the 200 freestyle and fourth in the 500 freestyle.
Liberty North diver Alberta Engelman took third in one-meter diving.
Liberty used a lineup of Maria Martin, Kendyl Beatty, Shea Williams and Madeline Pittman to place fourth in the 200 freestyle relay and fifth in the 400 freestyle relay.