The Park Hill South girls swimming team was hoping to put itself in position to become the first Kansas City-area team to win a state championship since Blue Springs in 2009 with a strong performance in the prelims Friday at the Rec Plex.
The Panthers, who have finished third the last two years, had some strong swims Friday but will enter Saturday’s finals as the second seed to defending state champion Columbia Rock Bridge.
“This was a very fast and very competitive meet,” Park Hill South coach Tim Busenhart said. “The times to make the top eight were much faster than they were last year.”
Busenhart had hoped to qualify three relays and 10 events in the championship heats Saturday. The Panthers did qualify the three relays, including as top seed in the 200 freestyle and second seed in the 400 free, and got through eight individual events.
They could have made it to 10, but freshman standout Georgia Clark was hampered by a high ankle sprain and was not able to qualify in her events individually, although she did help the relay teams advance.
“I was very pleased with the way the girls swam today,” Busenhart said. “We had almost all best times, and we needed to because of the overall phenomenal times today.”
The highlight of the day was a near state record by Park Hill South senior Tori Beeler.
Beeler, who will swim next year at Nebraska, had a time of 2:01.12 in the 200-yard IM. The state record of 2:00.74 was set in 2007 by Liz Smith of Parkway South. Beeler won the event last year with a time of 2:03.65 in the championship heat. She also enters Saturday as the top seed in the 100-yard freestyle.
Two other Panthers swimmers will compete in two events in the championship heats Saturday. Junior Allison Garrett will be in the 200- IM and 100 breaststroke, and sophomore Paige Riekhof qualified in the top eight in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly.
Senior Maggie Hickey also qualified in the 100-yard butterfly, as did junior Kirsten Aken in the 100-yard breaststroke.
The diving portion of the meet will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday. The swimming finals have been pushed back an hour to 4 p.m. because of the large amount of divers.