Park Hill South came so used to success that some could interpret last year’s finish in the Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships a disappointment.
Not necessarily so. The Panthers quickly reloaded after the loss of one of the program’s best of all time. They wound up fifth in the final team standings and just 14 points out of fourth place, seeing a three-year run of winning state trophies come to an end.
“Not a disappointment,” Park Hill South coach Tim Busenhart said. “Not many people would have thought that we would have be able to place that high since we lost such good seniors.”
Park Hill South again loses good seniors in Kirsten Aken and Allison Garrett.
The mostly youthful state contingent posted five all-state finishes and five school records in last year’s state meet, medaling two of their three relays. Panthers junior Georgia Clark and senior Paige Riekhof factored in four all-state showings total, including a leg on each of the top-eight relays.
Riekhof set a school record in each of her four events.
Park Hill South’s 200 medley relay (Riekhof, Clark, Aken and Garrett) finished second with a school-record time of 1 minute, 46.95 seconds in the final. The 200 freestyle relay of Clark, Riekhof, Garrett and sophomore Nadya McCullough posted a school record in preliminaries, eventually finishing fifth.
Riekhof also set a school records in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly, finishing sixth in both events.
Clark matched Riekhof for the best individual finish, also placing sixth in the 200 individual medley to go with an eighth place showing in the 100 backstroke. Clark also set the school record in the 50 freestyle as the lead of the 200 freestyle relay.
Garrett and Aken combined for three all-state or honorable mention all-state performances in their individual events.
Alexis Colpitts will likely be a key contributor for this year’s Park Hill South team, and Busenhart expects a few freshman and a transfer from Tennessee to add depth. The state’s switch to two classes will also make a difference in qualifiers.
“Compared to previous teams, this is probably the least experienced group,” Busenhart said. “We’re really young and we have four returning seniors with almost two thirds of our team as underclassmen; they’re young but a lot of depth and talent. It may not be the ‘elite elite’ that we had several years ago where we had seven or eight elite swimmers vs. the two that we have now.”