Park Hill South piling up state cuts early; PC's Earnest sets school record

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Park Hill South’s Maggie Hickey swims her leg of the 200-yard medley relay during a dual with Platte County on Thursday, Dec. 4 at the Platte County Community Center North in Platte City. Hickey, Allison Garrett, Tori Beeler and Maryn Burns teamed up to win the event for the Panthers and better their qualifying mark for the Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships in their second meet of the season. Park Hill South’s chance to win a state title remains months away, but the Panthers have already started loading up on qualifiers.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Park Hill South junior Tori Beeler competes in the 100-yard breaststroke during a meet against Platte County on Thursday, Dec. 4 at Platte County Community Center North in Platte City.

Last week, Park Hill South made the state cut in 11 events during its season-opening dual win against Lee’s Summit West on Tuesday, Dec. 2. The Panthers made six more and improved its 200-yard medley relay qualifying time while beating Platte County 235-80 on Thursday, Dec. 4 at Platte County Community Center North — the first true home meet for the Pirates in their program’s history.

Park Hill South won 11 of 13 events inside the new natatorium in Platte City, opened this past July, despite mixing and matching events during the early season.

Twelve total swimmers were involved in the victories, including four for junior standout Tori Beeler. Freshman Paige Riekhof and Allison Garrett also won three apiece.

Already an eight-time medal winner at state, Beeler topped the dual field the 100 butterfly (59.72) and 100 breaststroke (1:10.36) in addition to swimming a leg on the victorious 200 medley relay with Allison Garrett, Maryn Burns and Maggie Hickey and the winning 200 freestyle relay with Anna Riekhof, Paige Riekhof and Garrett.

Paige Riekhof, a notable addition for the Panthers in their efforts to move up from second at state last year to first, claimed the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. Garrett won the 200 individual medley in addition to her legs on winning relays.

“That’s really good for us because we can see how they get there and what are their techniques and maybe one day Platte County will be up there with Park Hill South,” Platte County’s Lauren Ernest said of going up against Park Hill South to open the season.

Earnest claimed the first two wins for a Platte County swimmer in the new home venue after years of trekking to Leavenworth, Kan. for practices and an all-road schedule. She first won the 50 freestyle in 26.71, edging Hickey by .07 of a second.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County’s Lauren Earnest swims the backstroke on her leg of the 200-yard medley relay on Thursday, Dec. 4 during a meet with Park Hill South at Platte County Community Center North in Platte City.

Later, Earnest bettered her school record in the 100 backstroke with a 1:05.19 performance. She set the previous mark at 1:05.34 last year.

“Me and my friends, last year, we always wanted a home pool — some place to call home,” she said. “We were really glad when they started building this. To win my first individual here means so much to me.”

Park Hill South’s Kirsten Aken won the 100 freestyle (58.46), edging teammate Hickey in that event by .05 of a second, while the Panthers team of Erin Stump, Hope Beatty, Lauren Bryant and Astrid Reynoso beat a quartet of teammates to finish the meet with a victory in the 400 freestyle relay.

Lauren Luton rounded out the winners for Park Hill South in a diving field that included three entries from the Panthers and four for the Pirates, who are attempting to jumpstart that part of their team with the move to the new facility.