ST. PETERS, Mo. — Georgia Clark capped off her banner career at Park Hill South with four more medals.
The senior and soon-to-be Iowa Hawkeye swimmer added more medals to her collection at the Class 2 MSHSAA Swimming & Diving Championships, which concluded on Friday, Feb. 15 at the St. Peters Rec-Plex.
That pushed her career total to 12 all-state medals, which break down to 2nd (2), 3rd (6), 5th (3) and 8th (1).
This past weekend she was third in the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard individual medley, while taking a fifth and eighth in relay events.
Along the way she broke a state record in the 100 backstrokes, though she was the record-holder for about 24 hours.
“It was a great last chance to represent my high school and I’m glad we finished in the way we did,” said Clark, who will now focus on swimming for Tsunami Swim Team of Kansas City.
The Panthers finished sixth overall with 143 points, edging out division mates Liberty North (seventh) and Staley (14th) — both squads that beat Park Hill South at the Suburban Conference Red Division meet recently.
“I’m really pleased with how we did,” Park Hill South coach Tim Busenhart said. “The key for our success was all three relays in the finals. I’m proud of these girls. They stepped up and being the top team in Kansas City, I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted that, to be honest.”
Clark took third in the 200 IM — where she was seeded first headed into the meet and sat second after the prelims race. She finished in 2:07.84, coming in behind state champion Karisa Franz of Cor Jesu and Kirkwood’s Ella Pearl.
In the 100-yard backstroke, Clark finished in 56.40 on Thursday and set a new state record in the process.
Busenhart told her of the record setting performance, which tied the school record set by current Nebraska swimmer Tori Beeler.
The next day, Pearl broke that mark with a 55.83 in the finals. Pearl won the race and Columbia Rock Bridge’s Mara Manion took second, ahead of Clark. Park Hill South’s Emma Clark was 13th in the race.
“It was not what I expected, but I’m so glad I could stand on the podium for Park Hill South,” Georgia Clark said of her final chance for an individual state championship.
“Georgia may not have got what she wanted,” Busenhart said. “She has been a great person for us the last four years. She has done a great job and she is going to the University of Iowa and will get even faster and do more.”
Clark joined sophomore Emma Clark, senior Alexis Colpitts and sophomore Christine Hwang in the 200 medley relay, which placed fifth at 1:50.30. Despite a faster time in the finals, the Panthers dropped a spot from its preliminary seeding.
Clark’s final race was in the 400 freestyle relay, seeded 14th heading into state, but the team dropped three seconds off that time on Thursday to sit in seventh. Then in the finals, more time was dropped in the finals on Friday, but the team fell a spot in the rankings to finish eighth.
“That was the one relay we never figured out until the end of the year on who it would be on that,” Busenhart said.
Clark swam with Hwang, Emma Clark and freshman Lola Reuscher.
“I’m really happy we all dropped time, it was one of our fastest events,” Hwang said. “We dropped time (on Thursday) and dropped even more time (Friday).”
In the 50 freestyle, the Panthers had three swimmers in the consolation finals. Hwang was 10th (24.84), followed by junior Sophie Jaeger (25.15/15th) and Reuscher (25.34/16th).
Hwang, Reuscher, Jaeger and sophomore Amelia Lee made up the 200-yard freestyle relay team that was fifth in the finals.
In the diving event, Taylor Young took third place for Park Hill South with a score of 394.15. Staley’s Ella McMahon was the runaway winner with a 481.50, while Lee’s Summit North’s Annie McCord (405.10) finished ahead of Young.
Young took eighth place last year.
Seven of the top 10 in the standings hailed from the Kansas City area.
Freshman Sydney Staebell was 14th in the 100 butterfly for Park Hill South.
“We only have one junior and two seniors out of this group … we are a young team and a lot more years to come,” Busenhart said. “It is pretty exciting and each year is a new year.”
The Trojans finished 16th in the Class 2 standings with 44 points.
The only event in the finals for the Trojans was Brooklyn Pierce, who took seventh in the 100 butterfly.
She swam 58.59 in the prelims, which was the third fastest time, but four competitors dropped time in the finals.
In the 50 freestyle, Pierce, a senior, took 11th (24.89).
She was also the last leg on the 200-yard freestyle relay that was 15th (1:43.14). Freshman Arielle Janssens and juniors Emma Will and Elissa Woods also contributed to that relay.
Senior Abigail Culp took 10th place in the 200-yard freestyle (1:59.26) and added a 14th-place showing in the 500 freestyle. Her 500 results was a bump from a 16th-place finish last year, while she was 22nd in the 200.
Culp joined Pierce, Will and Janssens in the 400 freestyle relay, which took 11th.
“It was kind of emotional, I’m not going to lie,” Culp said of swimming her last races for the Trojans. “It is incredible to come back to swim in three events at state. It is impressive. It was incredible to finish in the 400 with my team. My goal was really to swim for my team and do what I could. I wasn’t feeling great personally, but I tried to push my team and I think the relay is what everyone came to do, it was great.”
Park Hill coach Karl Haley brought a mix of state veterans and newcomers to St. Peters and was pleased with what he saw.
“We put a lot of weight in the conference meet,” he said of Park Hill’s runner-up finish in the Gold Division. “The girls wanted to do better, but I knew it would be hard back-to-back and I think it showed a little bit. It is a little overwhelming here as fast as it is, but hopefully they will use it as a motivator and not a deterrent.
In an odd twist, Park Hill scored 44 points for the second straight year. The 16th place showing is the fifth year in a row the Trojans were in the top 20.
The Kansas City metro area had six of the top 16 in the state, including Gold Division foes Blue Springs (11th) and Lee’s Summit West (12th) finishing ahead of Park Hill.
The St. Louis area had eight in the top 16, while Columbia had two in that range.
“When I was swimming back in the day and my early years of coaching, St. Louis dominated the heck out of us,” Haley said. “It is awesome to see KC and especially the Northland do awesome. It is good for the Kansas City area to build up and continue to grow the sport.”