GLADSTONE, Mo. — Even in Platte County’s record-breaking season, one school record still remained for sophomore Lauren Earnest to best entering the Suburban League Blue Division meet on Saturday, Feb. 7.
Stephanie Jacobsen still held the program mark in the 50-yard free style, set in 2002 (26.71 seconds). Earnest took aim for that as she hit the water in the event at Gladstone Community Center, and after a frantic finish, she finally realized her goal from the beginning of the year.
“I truly didn’t notice (at first),” Earnest said. “I looked at the girl’s time next to me, and I was happy for her that she got (a state time). Then I looked at my time, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I finally broke the school record.’ I felt a surge of joy and happiness that I got to do that for my team, getting first and putting Platte County on the map.”
Earnest took the school record and the conference title in the event, improving her state qualifying time to 26.69 seconds. Her second individual title — the 100 backstroke (1:02.65) — gave her another event to swim in at the Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships, scheduled for Feb. 20 and 21 in St. Peters, Mo.
Two individual championships paired with a silver-medal leg on the 200 freestyle relay team that also included Hannah Havemeier, Hailee Baer and Olivia Forrester helped the Pirates to a second-place team finish with 461 points — 33 behind team champion Kearney. Platte County missed out on key points in search of the championship when the state-bound 200 medley relay team was disqualified for a swimmer leaving too soon in the meet’s first event.
“I was so very proud of the way our team continued to work hard and produce outstanding results after an initial setback,” first-year Platte County coach Kenna Sampsell said. “They certainly did not let a mistake define their performance. Breaking two school records over a decade long as well as setting two additional state times showed the determination these young ladies possess.”
Forrester also added her name to the state qualifiers list with a third-place effort in the 100 breaststroke (1:12.44). The sophomore became the third Pirates individual to hit a state mark, joining Earnest and Havemeier, and she also collected a bronze in the 200 freestyle (2:13.53).
Prior to this season, only one individual — Jacobsen — and one relay had qualified for state in program history.
“The sophomore class made it our personal goal to take all of the records down,” Earnest said. “My job was to get the 50 free, the 100 back and the 100 free. I got two of them, and I kept trying to get that 50 free and it finally happened. I never gave up.”
Havemeier finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:12.58) and second in 100 butterfly (1:03.95), and Baer collected a silver in the 200 individual medley (2:28.28) and a bronze in the 100 butterfly (1:03.95).
Rachel Valentine also added a state qualifying time at the Lee’s Summit last chance qualifier held Monday, Feb. 9. She finished the 100 breaststroke in 1:10.23 — the 16th fastest time in the state this year — after missing out on swimming in the Suburban League Meet over the weekend.
Suburban League Red Division
Park Hill South continued its ever-lengthening era of dominance, claiming its 14th straight Suburban League title in girls swimming. The Panthers tallied 616 team points — 121 more than second-place Park Hill.
Park Hill South freshman Paige Reikhof highlighted the performance with a school-record in the 200 freestyle. Her time of 1:56.67 in Friday, Feb. 6’s preliminaries earned her the top seed in the event, and she claimed the gold by more than 2 seconds in the final (1:56.78), ahead of Liberty’s Madeline Pittman (1:59.24).
Park Hill’s Madison Heydinger claimed the bronze (2:01.04) in the event.
Park Hill South’s freshman standout also claimed a gold in the 100 butterfly (59.05), and the Panthers swept the podium in the event with Maggie Hickey (59.16) and Helen Yeater (1:00.40) following behind their teammate. Yeater was also involved in another Park Hill South sweep, finishing second in 1:10.03 behind junior Anna Riekhof (1:09.12) and just ahead of freshman Kirsten Aken (1:10.14) in the 100 breaststroke.
Aken qualified for state with her effort, while Riekhof and Yeater had previously made their mark.
Park Hill South also swept the top three spots in the 200 individual medley with Tori Beeler, Allison Garrett and Anna Riekhof finishing 1-2-3.
The Park Hill schools claimed all but one title on the day — 100 backstroke. Beeler, Park Hill South’s junior star, grabbed the silver with a 57.63-second swim behind Audrey Schank of St. Joseph Central (57.44). Park Hill grabbed two individual titles — Nani Welsh (100 freestyle, 54.49) and Heydinger (500 freestyle, 5:22.97).
Park Hill South swept the relay golds — 200 medley (1:52.54), 200 freestyle (1:40.19) and 400 freestyle (3:38.95). Park Hill finished second in each event, but the 200 medley relay hit a state qualifying mark in the finals (1:55.78), the 18th event qualified for the Trojans.
Park Hill South has 35 qualifying marks for state in all with Maryn Burns (50 freestyle champion, 25.61) and Ava Kinsland (fifth in 100 backstroke, 1:04.24) also adding their name to the list. The Panthers also have a diver qualified for the first time since 2010 after Dani Proffitt hit her mark late last month in a dual with Park Hill.