ST. PETERS, Mo. — Platte County extended the streak of at least one event in the top 16 at the Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships to five years, but the wait came down to the final race Saturday at Rec-Plex.
In the 400-yard freestyle, Platte County’s team of seniors Ryan Dye and Jacob Flynn, junior Dylan Bietz and sophomore Collin Burton placed 16th in a season-best 3 minutes, 30.06 seconds and earned honorable mention all-state honors in Class 1. The Pirates entered as the No. 22 seed, although the time used for state purposes came at the Last Chance Meet on Nov. 2.
A paper mishap meant Platte County had to fix the lineup and redo its qualifying time, and that put the Pirates in the third and slowest of three heats and upping the difficulty of making the top 16 with the elimination of preliminaries. The state cut the meet to one day in an effort to reduce time spent in the facility due to COVID concerns.
“It was really interesting,” Dye said of the third heat. “Right after we got done the team next to us asked how did we end up in the third heat and how we managed to drop seven seconds. It was a good feeling.”
The one-day state meet was held without fans, the first Missouri State High School Activities Association championship event this fall with that distinction. A change in qualifications also meant only 24 swimmers or relays were in each event, a decrease from the previous standard of 32.
Despite the quieter-than-normal atmosphere, Platte County scored two team points and finished in a tie for 35th in Class 1 with DeSmet. The retooling Pirates entered the year with only a few returning qualifiers from a team that took 16th at state in 2019.
“I think it was a really good cap to my four years on the swim team at Platte County High,” Dye said of the 16th-place finish in the 400 relay. “We were seeded seven seconds slower; we had a mishap and had to get all of the team on the state roster. It was good to reclaim our best time and even drop a few tenths of a second to get back to our expectations.”
Platte County took second in the third heat behind Rockwood Summit, which dropped 11 seconds off its seed time. The Pirates’ swimmers and coaches watched the other two heats with a watchful eye on the scoreboard.
Anderson and assistant coach Doug DeLay were trying to figure out where 400 freestyle relay stood after the second heat. DeLay, wearing a faded Adidas hat for the sixth state meet in a row, told Anderson he thought they were 16th going into the final heat and the team could only move up in the standings if there was a disqualification.
There were two types of emotion on the Platte County side: nerves and calmness.
“We knew we were a 3:30 or a 3:31 team and we were anxious to show it,” Anderson said. “We knew we would be up there. It as cool to see us coming up and getting second in that heat. We were excited to do that. I knew we would pass some, but I wasn’t sure (about placing).
Pausing for a second, Anderson threw in some comedic relief for the tense moment.
“We were trying to figure it out with only 24,” he said. “Doug and I could get to 24; we could do pretty well. If they had 32 we might not have figured it out very well.”
While Anderson and DeLay stood poolside watching the final two heats, the swimmers went to the assigned seating area – letter F in the corner of the natatorium – and watched the scoreboard.
“It was really stressful standing there watching everyone having to swim and get their times and watching all the times coming in below you and right after you,” Dye said. “Trying to find out where you are mentally (in the standings) is really stressful.”
Rockwood Summit moved from 21st to 10th, and Platte County made the second biggest move, passing teams like Camdenton (14th) and Lebanon (16th) in the second heat. The Pirates also jumped over teams such as Sedalia Smith-Cotton, Republic, North Kansas City and West Plains that were also in the “slow heat.”
“It means a lot for my senior year to end on a high note like that,” Flynn said. “There has been a lot of trials and tribulations this year. It felt good to come here and see all the hard work.”
That was one of two relays for Platte County in the field, the other came in the first race of the day — the 200 medley relay. The quartet of Dye, Burton, Bietz and junior Christian Yocklin finished the race in 1:48.17 out of the third heat and finished 21st — lower than the team’s seeded time of 17th.
The busiest day belonged to Bietz, who took part in two individual events, as well. He finished 21st in the 50 freestyle (23.10) and was 20th in the 100 freestyle (51.34). In that same race, Burton was 23rd, finishing in 53.77.
“We were pretty excited (to be here),” Anderson said. “I know some of our guys slid in, and we were trying to swim the best we could in the early events. We knew the 400 (freestyle relay) we would do pretty well. We had been kinda waiting on it all meet and we got pretty excited and everything. It was exciting to get in the top 16. That was goal. If we could’ve gotten higher, that would have been better, but we wanted to get in the top 16.”