Platte County produced the largest contingent of Class 1 MSHSAA Swimming and Diving Championships qualifiers the past three years. However, senior Brooklynn Hays becomes the final common link remaining for the Pirates, while junior Ireland Shank also brings significant postseason experience to this year’s deep roster.
But not only did Platte County graduate one of the program’s most accomplished and decorated swimmers in Drew DeLay first-year coach Britt Johnson must also replace a strong supporting cast that contributed to the past four Suburban Conference titles — the first three in the Blue Division before moving up this season and taking the White Division crown. The Pirates have won five straight overall.
DeLay and Hays were the catalyst behind Platte County’s state accomplishments the past two seasons. The Pirates’ top two swimmers scored team points in three total events and combined with a pair of consolation finalist relays to earn a tie for 16th in the final Class 1 team standings last winter. That marked a step back up after being 21st in 2022.
Platte County finished with 46 points total at state in 2022-23 ended up just 13 points out of 13th. The Pirates totaled 37 in 2022 after recording a program-best ninth-place showing in 2021 with Shannon Banark, DeLay, Hays and others producing the best finish in program history.
Hays now takes her turn as the unquestioned leader of a six-swimmer senior class.
Already the first freshman in Platte County history to earn all-state honors, Hays enters the season in position to join Banark as the only swimmer to have three seasons with a medal in an individual event. Hays’ junior state meet proved to be her best so far, qualifying seventh out of preliminaries for the 100-yard freestyle and finishing in the same spot and earning the No. 5 seed in the 100 breaststroke before placing sixth in the final.
Hays now owns three career all-state medals.
In previous state meets, Hays placed eighth in the 100 breaststroke as a freshman 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 qualify for the finals.
Hays also earned all-state honors on Platte County’s 2021 400 freestyle relay. She was honorable all-state as part of the Pirates’ 400 freestyle relay (15th, 2022), 200 freestyle relay (13th, 2022 and 14th, 2023) and 200 medley relay (13th, 2023) and a qualifier as a freshman on the 200 freestyle team that did not advance out of preliminaries.
Shank was one of two sophomores on last year’s consolation finalist 200 medley team, but fellow junior Madeleine Stone did not return to the roster this year.
At state last year, Stone swam in the 200 individual medley preliminaries (32nd) after qualifying in that event plus the 100 backstroke as a freshman. Shank earned a spot in the 100 butterfly state field for a second straight year, placing 31st in preliminaries last winter.
Outside of Hays and Shank, only senior Jayden Benninghoff returns with state experience for Platte County. She swam with Shank on the 400 freestyle relay team that placed 25th in preliminaries.
The rest of the qualifiers were part of a large senior class with Madeline Judy and Lauren Beatty part of the 200 freestyle team last year. Judy swam that event for Platte County two years in a row, while Beatty made her debut. They were also both on the 400 freestyle relay for the Pirates.
In addition, graduated seniors Blair Bolling, Ella Chiddix and Samantha Teufel all served as state relay alternates with Bolling on the 2022 200 medley team.
DeLay ended her career as a four-time honorable mention all-state performer in the 100 breaststroke — her top event — and her 10th-place showing last season tied her career-best state placement in the event from her sophomore year to go along with 14th place as a freshman and 15th as a junior. She also qualified in the 200 freestyle as a senior and competed at state in the 50 freestyle as a junior and 200 freestyle as a freshman.
In addition to individual successes, DeLay swam on two state relays in her freshmen, sophomore and senior seasons plus three as a junior when COVID-19 protocols limited the number of qualifiers to 24 per event. Without a second individual swim, she could be part of all three relay quartets. Her relay placements included 12th-place 200 medley and 14th-place 200 freestyle (2019-20); fourth-place 200 medley, seventh-place 400 freestyle and 200 freestyle (2020-21); 13th-place 200 freestyle and 15th-place 400 freestyle (2021-22); and 13th-place 200 medley and 14th-place 200 freestyle (2022-23). She finished her career with two all-state and 10 honorable mention all-state performances total to her credit.
With so many accomplished seniors and Stone not back, Platte County can look to increased contributions from Benninghoff and Shank plus continued development from a group of all-conference performers including seniors Emilee Handke (100 butterfly) and Alyson Stone (100 backstroke); junior Sarah Howe (500 freestyle); and sophomores Ashleigh Cruce (200 individual medley and 100 butterfly), Adelaide Bonsignore (500 freestyle) and Erin Anderson (500 freestyle) to hopefully fuel more conference and state successes.