High School Sports

Park Hill South girls swim team gets creative in search for an edge

Tori Beeler hopes to lead Park Hill South to its 15th consecutive Suburban Red Conference championship on Saturday at the Henley Aquatic Center in Independence.
Tori Beeler hopes to lead Park Hill South to its 15th consecutive Suburban Red Conference championship on Saturday at the Henley Aquatic Center in Independence. Special to The Star

A midseason swimming invitational had just concluded, and Park Hill South High School senior Tori Beeler felt a nagging pain in her shoulder. The initial attempt to find the source proved fruitless.

And then she stumbled across it by accident. While watching film as part of the Panthers’ new — or at least improved — study habits, Beeler noticed her arm was flailing too far away from her body as she swam the backstroke.

She solved the injury problem.

And she cut fractions of a second off her time in the process.

“Every little thing in swimming is really important,” Beeler said. “Something really small like that can be the difference between winning and losing.”

For a team intent on winning its first Missouri state swimming and diving championship in school history, the smallest of advantages could be large enough.

Park Hill South, which will seek its 15th straight Suburban Red Conference championship this weekend, has placed a higher emphasis on finding every nook and cranny to improve its race times. The Panthers watch film on a regular basis. They’ve submerged GoPro cameras under water to analyze every stroke and the pull of the water.

Anything to gain an edge.

“I think it’s given us better concentration,” Park Hill South coach Tim Busenhart said. “They’re putting forth the effort to see whatever they can do to get better. Then they review the film and make the change.”

Here’s the real benefit: An analysis of the regular season numbers suggest Park Hill South could be neck-and-neck with defending-champion Rock Bridge for the state meet championship, which takes place Feb. 19-20 in St. Peters, Mo.

The Panthers finished a program-best third at state each of the past two seasons. Busenhart says the returning members of his team are already swimming faster times than they did a year ago, and there are still ways to cut more time before the state meet.

The Suburban Red Conference meet is the final tuneup. Six teams in the league will share the Henley Aquatic Center pool with the Suburban White Conference championships. The Suburban Gold and Blue Conference meets will take place at the Gladstone Community Center.

For many, it’s a final opportunity to reach state-qualifying times.

Not so much for the Panthers.

Beeler, junior Allison Garrett and freshman Georgia Clark have qualified in all eight individual events. Beeler, a three-time state champion, is ranked in the top-six in the state in all eight.

But it could likely come down to the relay finishes, which are worth double the points as the individual swims. And that’s where the Panthers feel particularly strong. Each of their three relay teams is ranked among the state’s five best.

“That’s the biggest thing,” Busenhart said. “The emphasis is trying to get the relays all in top form. That’s been our focus all year — what can we do to win our relays. That could be the difference right there.”