Banark leads talented senior class looking to lift Platte County swimming to new heights again

Pirates finished 16th at state in Class 1 a year ago and pieces appear to be in place to improve and set new program standards.
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Platte County returns four key pieces from last year’s Class 1 Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships contingent, which led the Pirates to a 16th-place team finish.

In the three years since the state split into two classifications, Platte County went from 32nd to 23rd to 16th in the final standings. This Pirates’ roster this winter includes a host of fourth-year senior standouts, none more important than Shannon Banark but also including three-time state qualifier Maddie Klippenstein and veterans Sage Nichols, Sophie Zimmerman, Emilia Wiśniewski, Ava Jonkman and Maddie Kunz.

Platte County’s returning state qualifiers include Banark, Klippenstein, Zimmerman and sophomore Drew DeLay, while only Lindsey Swindler graduated.

“I’m very excited about this season,” said Platte County coach Marnie Jenkins, who has also coached at St. Joseph Central and took over the reins of the Pirates prior to the 2017 season. “This could be the best team I have ever had the opportunity to coach.”

A recent signee to Division I South Dakota, Banark earned all-state honors as a junior in both the 100-yard freestyle (sixth) and 200 individual medley (seventh) and headlined two top-16 Platte County relays. She holds six school records, won four Suburban Conference Blue Division individual races and qualified for state in 12 events in her first three years — the max number possible. 

Banark also claimed all-state honors in the 50 freestyle as a sophomore (fifth) to go along with an honorable mention all-state finish in the 100 butterfly (10th). As a freshman, she was honorable mention all-state in the 200 IM (10th).

Last year at state, Klippenstein, Swindler and DeLay joined Banark on the 12th-place 200 freestyle team, while Banark, DeLay, Klippenstein and Zimmerman placed the Pirates 14th in the 200 freestyle relay.

The last of Platte County’s 53 state points came from Klippenstein’s ninth-place finish after winning the consolation final in the 100 breaststroke. DeLay also made her individual state debut as a freshman, placing 14th in the 100 breaststroke.

Platte County also returns juniors Meredith Ballou and Erian Stone, while freshmen Brooklynn Hays, Ava Healey and Jaden Benninghoff will look to make an impact entering the program with experience in youth clubs. Ballou teamed with Banark, Klippenstein and Swindler on the Pirates’ 15th-place state 200 medley relay.

But the first goal for Platte County will be to continue dominance in the Blue Division, having won the league crown the past two years. The Pirates will then look to lean on Banark’s individual talent, put a pair of relays in the top-eight and have Klippenstein, DeLay and possibly others earn all-state finishes of their own to make another push up the team standings.

Platte County’s season starts Tuesday with a trip to Missouri Western in St. Joseph for a triangular with St. Joseph Central and Savannah. The Pirates were slated to start the year this past Thursday in a meet at the Platte County Community Center North against Smithville, but the Warriors didn’t have enough practices to participate in an official meet so the teams held a mock meet instead.

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