Park Hill South swimming relay fends off rival on way to Northland title

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Park Hill South’s Ava Kinsland competes in the 100-yard backstroke Saturday, Jan. 10 at the Gladstone Community Center in Gladstone, Mo. during the Northland Invitational. GLADSTONE, Mo. — Park Hill freshman Nani Welsh looked over her right shoulder and noticed a formidable foe lining up against her for the anchor leg of the 400-yard freestyle relay.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Park Hill’s Madison Heydinger competes in the 500-yard freestyle event during the Northland Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 10. at the Gladstone Community Center in Gladstone, Mo. Park Hill finished third in the 23 team field with Park Hill South claiming the title.

Park Hill South junior Tori Beeler — the Panthers top swimmer — opposed her for the final 100 yards. Beeler and the Panthers had already secured the Northland Invitational title Saturday, Jan. 10 at the Gladstone Community Center, but the Trojans were still fighting for their first major trophy of the year.

“I was really nervous going into it,” Welsh said. “Right when I saw I was going against Tori, I was like, ‘Oh, no,’ but I was proud of myself because I kept up.”

The two entered the final leg nearly even with Park Hill holding a slight edge.

Welsh had eclipsed Beeler’s top time in the 100 yard open earlier in the meet, but the junior reasserted herself with a 54.09-second split to allow Park Hill South to claim second place in the relay (3 minutes, 42.95 seconds), just more than one tenth faster than the Trojans (3:43.09).

“It was really intense,” Beeler said, “especially for me because I was last. I was just like, ‘OK. I just have to beat the team next to me (Park Hill).’ I did that, and I was really happy. We got second in that, and (the Trojans) are a really good freestyle team.”

Welsh claimed individual titles in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle and a pair of bronzes on the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays. Her time of 54.51 seconds in the 100 eclipsed Beeler’s best mark — 54.65, set in a dual with Lee’s Summit West on Dec. 2.

Rock Bridge claimed the win in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:40.32. The Bruins also have the top time in the state this season.

Park Hill South returned to action after travel concerns kept the team from attending a meet scheduled for the previous weekend in Columbia, Mo.

“We didn’t get an opportunity last week to swim against Rock Bridge because it got cancelled for us,” Park Hill South coach Tim Busenhart said. “Our girls were waiting for this meet to swim against one of the top teams in the state. I told the girls if we step up our performance, we have a shot at winning it.”

Park Hill South claimed the team title with 407 points with Rock Bridge in second at 301. Park Hill grabbed the third-place trophy with a team score of 195 — 35 more than fourth-place Hickman.

Park Hill South claimed victories in the 200 medley and freestyle relays as well as individual titles from Anna Riekhof in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.53) and Beeler in the 100 backstroke (58.15) and 200 IM ( 2:09.31).

The elite field provided an early indicator of teams that could compete for trophies at next month’s Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships. Park Hill South finished second in the final team standings last year.

“I think it shows everyone the playing field for state and conference,” Beeler said. “Who’s the top people? Who’s there to be beat? You look at people and how they swim and try to strategize going forward.”

Madison Heydinger claimed Park Hill’s third individual title in the 500 freestyle (5:20.53). She provided excitement with a frantic final three lengths of the pool out-kicking Meghan Kearney of Notre Dame de Sion after the two were tied after 17 of 20 laps.

“I was surprised but the last final laps were actually the easiest for me,” Heydinger said. “Normally, I struggle because it is so hard. Being in front really pushes me, and I like to be ahead so it definitely gave me the boost to finish.”

Park Hill South added one individual event to its state qualifying list at the meet. Anna Riekhof hit the mark in the 200 IM, finishing in sixth place in 2:18.94.

Park Hill added four events to its state contingent with Rebecca Shaw (seventh, 200 IM, 2:19.18), Meg Feeley (seventh, 100 backstroke, 1:03.54), and Heydinger (third, 200 freestyle, 1:59.43) all grabbed slots.

“That’s our goal,” Park Hill coach Karl Haley said. “We want to get the girls qualified early so we don’t have to waste a swim later in the season. Now we can focus on the state meet and getting ready for that one meet instead of fooling around with other things.”

Joe Arbisi Tiger Invitational

Platte County finished its season sweep of this meet in Sedalia, Mo. The boys also won Smith-Cotton’s invitational in the fall.

The Pirates won five swimming events in addition to sweeping the diving podium to earn 473 team points, 96 ahead of second-place Warrensburg.

Hannah Havemeier — a state qualifier in the 100 breaststroke — collected four gold medals, winning the 100 breaststroke, 100 butterfly and swimming on the victorious 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams. She was joined on the winning relays by Hailee Baer, Rachel Valentine and Lauren Earnest.

Baer also collected a gold in the 200 individual medley.

Valentine collected fourth-place and fifth-place medals in the 100 breaststroke and 50 freestyle, respectively. Earnest — a state qualifier in the 50 free — took home a silver in the 100 freestyle.

Skyelar Perkins won the diving competition with Abby Goodman (second), Emily Kruse (third) and Rachel Gilbert (fourth) rounding out the results.

Gilbert also scored a bronze in the 100 backstroke with teammate Sydney Wilbright finishing fourth in the event. Hannah Sayre (third in the 200 free) rounded out the Pirates who cracked the top three.