Shannon Banark broke through and hit her first two automatic qualifying times for the Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships over the weekend.
In a tough field at the COMO Invitational, Platte County’s star freshman ended up in the B final for the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard butterfly but hit two important marks Saturday, Jan. 6 in Columbia, Mo. She previously made multiple individual consideration cuts but became the Pirates’ first guaranteed state participant.
Platte County finished with just nine team points and placed 26th in a loaded 27-team field.
Banark accounted for all nine points, placing 10th in the IM with a season-best and school-record 2:14.08 — well below the 2:18.09 automatic qualifying standard. She set the school record in the season-opening meet before her breakout showing in Columbia, which left her with the No. 4 qualifying time in Class 1.
In the 100 butterfly, Banark placed 15th at 1:01.98, just under the state-mark of 1:02.09.
Banark joined Bailey Newell, Lindsey Swindler and Maddie Klippenstein on the 200 medley relay team, which finished 18th overall and cut more than 3 seconds off their time with a 2:00.70 showing in the preliminary races on Friday, Jan. 5. The Pirates have qualified the relay for state three straight years and edged closer to an automatic qualifying mark but the Pirates currently rank No. 14 in Class 1 with a state berth very likely regardless of season improvement.
Newell and Natalie Wolbert both had state consideration times posted in the 50 freestyle.
Park Hill South finished tied for fourth overall with Liberty at 150 points.
Overall, Park Hill South put seven in the A final with Paige Riekhof (200 freestyle) and Georgia Clark (100 backstroke) both posting runner-up finishes. Riekhof was also third in the 100 butterfly, while Clark was fourth in the 200 IM.
All four of their times were season-bests and improved their automatic state qualifying times.
Park Hill South’s 200 medley team of Riekhof, Emma Clark, Georgia Clark and Christine Hwang finished fifth in a season-best time of 1:46.46. The 200 freestyle team of Sophia Jaeger, Amelia Lee, Terah Stoker and Nadya McCullough took seventh, while the same group was eighth in the 400 freestyle relay, which also set a season-best (3:45.91).
Emma Clark earned automatic qualifying berths in both of her individual events, advancing to the B final in both the 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke.
Platte County quad
Shannon Banark continued her strong start to the season in a small meet Thursday, Jan. 4 — supplying some more confidence in the days ahead of her breakout effort at COMO.
Two individual wins and another school record were added to the freshman’s list of accomplishments on senior night at Platte County Community Center North. She took first in the 100 and 200 freestyle races, while swimming a leg on the winning 200 medley relay.
“She is built for swimming and she loves it,” Platte County coach Marnie Jenkins said of her standout freshman. “She works all year around.”
Platte County dominated the meet with 603 points, easily outdistancing second-place Smithville (238). Marshall, St. Pius X and Bishop LeBlond also competed.
Banark swam 55.94 in 100 free to break the school record of 56.19 held by Lauren Earnest since 2015. That added to her 200 IM record set earlier in the season and bettered at COMO.
In the first month of the season, Banark established herself as a team leader.
“It has been good,” Banark said of her early success. “I knew I would go in strong. It is really easy compared to club (swimming).”
Platte County and St. Pius X won four events each, while Marshall took two. Smithville accounted for the other with no 1-meter diving held.
Maddie Klippenstein, a freshman, had the other individual win for Platte County, going 1:16.16 in the 100 breaststroke. She shaved more than a second off her consideration state cut time — now about 4 seconds off of an automatic mark.
“We are really looking at times right now,” Jenkins said.
Banark, Klippenstein, Lindsey Swindler and Bailey Newell — one of five seniors — were on the 200 medley relay team. Newell also sang the national anthem.
Olivia Orf, Brynlee Cook, Riley Schmidt and Sara Stefaneli were the other seniors honored at the final home meet.
“I thought I’d be more emotional, but I’m really happy, I think it went well,” said Newell, the only returning state qualifier on the roster. “I don’t think it has set in yet it was my last meet here. It was a good meet. The girls were on their game today and it showed. It is always good to see individual success and team success.”
Park Hill South Triangular
Park Hill South won 10 of 12 events at a meet against St. Pius X and Pembroke Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 2 at the Park Hill District Aquatic Center in Kansas City, Mo. Three swimmers won a pair of individual events, and the Panthers swept the three relays. Georgia Clark posted an automatic state qualifying time in the 100 breaststroke (1:12.49), and she also came close to a state cut while winning the 100 freestyle. Paige Riekhof won the 50 freestyle in 22.55 — just off a state cut and topped the 100 backstroke field.
Emma Clark, a freshman, had victories in the 200 and 500 freestyle for Park Hill South. Laurel Burns (100 butterfly) was the other individual winner.
Riekhof, Georgia Clark and Emma Clark were on two of the winning relays. Riekhof, Emma Clark, Christine Hwang and Nadya McCullough were on the 400 freestyle team, while Hwang, Riekhof, Georgia Clark and Sophie Jaeger made up the 200 medley.
Georgia Clark, Emma Clark, Burns and Jaeger were on the 200 freestyle team.