Platte County's qualifiers for this year's Class 1 MSHSAA Swimming and Diving Championships included seniors Brooklynn Hays, Alyson Stone and Jayden Benninghoff; juniors Chloe Pegler and Ireland Shank; sophomore Ashleigh Cruce and freshmen Ronnie Benford and Mackenzie Johnson. Contributed photo

Hays closes decorated career with 2 more honorable mention all-state performances

Platte County senior star makes consolation final of 100-yard breaststroke, 100-yard freestyle to lead showing for Pirates’ 8 total qualifiers.

Brooklynn Hays might have anticipated a better conclusion, but nothing about her performance in the Class 1 MSHSAA Swimming and Diving Championships on Thursday and Friday at Rec-Plex in St. Peters changes the legacy left behind.

Platte County’s senior star qualified for the consolation final of both the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke, adding two more honorable mention all-state performances to one of the most decorated careers in program history. She finishes with more individual accolades than any other swimmer besides her freshman teammate and 2021 graduate Shannon Banark.

Overall, Hays earned four all-state medals and eight honorable mention showings in four seasons.

Platte County sent eight total qualifiers to state with seven able to compete across five individual and three relay entrants.

The top 32 in each event made the state field with swimmers limited to two individual events and two relays or three relays if qualified in one or fewer event, meaning those without a top-32 time ended up making the field. The top eight times in preliminaries advance to the all-state championship final while the next eight go to the honorable mention consolation final.

Hays went into Thursday’s preliminaries with top-12 times in both individual events.

In the 100 freestyle, Hays put up the 13th-fastest time (55.62 seconds) and then finished 16th in the finals (57.50). She went into the 100 breaststroke as a two-time all-state finisher in the event but qualified 10th (1:09.02) and placed 11th (1:10.45) in Saturday’s finals. All four times were off her season- and career-bests.

However, Hays accounted for all seven of Platte County’s team points with none of the three relays able to make the finals.

Hays also swam on the 200 yard medley relay with senior Jayden Benninghoff, junior Chloe Pegler and sophomore Ashleigh Cruce that came in 18th out of preliminaries (2:00.82) and missed the finals by about a second and a half. The Pirates’ 200 freestyle relay with Hays, Pegler, Cruce and junior Ireland Shank put up the No. 27 preliminary time (1:51.71).

Platte County’s 400 freestyle team of Benninghoff, Shank and freshmen Ronnie Benford and Mackenzie Johnson (4:06.57) matched the 27th-place finish of the 200 freestyle team.

A year earlier, Hays finished sixth in the 100 breaststroke and seventh in the 100 freestyle to earn the second and third individual medals of her career. In previous state meets, she became the fist all-state freshman in program history (eighth in the 2021 100 breaststroke) and then added honorable mention all-state showings as a sophomore in that same event (11th) plus the 50 freestyle (12th). She qualified in the 50 freestyle as a freshman but did not make the finals.

In addition, Hays was part of Platte County’s all-state 400 freestyle team and qualifying 200 freestyle team as a freshman and then the 13th-place 200 freestyle and 15th-place 400 freestyle in 2021-22. Shank and Hays were on last year’s 13th-place 200 medley relay, and Hays plus three seniors placed 14th in the 200 freestyle relay.

Shank made her third straight appearance in the 100 butterfly and was 31st in preliminaries (1:07.22), while Cruce made her individual state debut in that event (22nd, 1:05.32) and also competed alongside Hays in the 100 breaststroke, coming in 31st in 1:18.34.

Cruce made a big leap as a second-year sophomore, while Pegler joined the team and made an immediate impact in sprint freestyle.

Benninghoff’s appearance on two state relays came after making her debut with a leg on last year’s 400 freestyle team that finished 25th in preliminaries. Alyson Stone, a third senior, also went to state with the Pirates this season but served as an alternate.

Johnson and Benford enjoyed standout freshman seasons and will be poised for bigger roles next year.

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