Ethan Rose started the season still learning about his roster.
Taking over at Park Hill South, Rose inherits a team coming off of a 14th place finish in last year’s Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships team standings. The Panthers bring back three individual state qualifiers, two of whom swam on all three state qualifying relays.
“They actually look really, really good,” Rose said. “We’ve got a lot of talented freshmen coming up, and we’re almost half freshmen and half everybody else so we’ve got a lot of young talent, and we’ve got some good returners.”
Jackson Garrett tops the list of returners after a standout sophomore season.
Already with six all-state performances in two years, Garrett placed fourth in the 100-yard backstroke in 2016 in addition to swimming on a pair of medal-winning relays (seventh, 200 freestyle and 14th, 200 medley). Cody Beeler, a senior, and junior Isaac Lee joined Garrett and graduated senior Daniel Miller on all three of the Panthers’ state relays.
In addition, Beeler and junior Patrick Hefferren also made individual state cuts — both in the 100 breaststroke. A majority of younger swimmers will be hoping to provide the depth with the loss of Miller, Connor Morris and Stephen Heit — a talented trio that helped Park Hill South jump from 28th in state in 2015 to 14th last year.
“With a younger team you could have some outstanding swims or they could get under pressure to where they can’t handle it,” Rose said. “It’ll be interesting and I have a good feeling and I think the guys have a pretty good head on their shoulders so I think we’ll be alright.”
Alex Kubicki is among the seniors hoping to see what this year’s crop of underclassmen can bring to the pool to push Park Hill South’s returners.
“There’s a lot of untapped potential right now with the kids, especially with the freshmen class that is about half our team right now,” Kubicki said. “I’m excited to see what the sophomores can do too because I know a lot of them joined year-round teams so I’m sure a lot of them will do better than last year.”
Garrett agrees with the assessment of potential, knowing Park Hill South needs new faces to help fill out the relays for this season. Rose expects freshmen Zander Livingston and Chris Wiessman to help in swimming events, while also adding freshman diver Greyson Langer.
“I’m excited to see what they do at the meets,” Garrett said. “We’ve been practicing a lot harder than last year so it’ll be interesting.”