The Parkway West girls swimming team captured their record 12th state title at Saturday's 36th Girls Swimming and Diving MSHSAA Championships, which was held at the St. Peters Rec Plex.
None could have been as dramatic as this one.
Hannibal led the team title throughout the day. It came down to the final event, the 400-yard freestyle medley. Parkway West's first-year coach Allison Zeller laid it all on the line to her team of senior Morgan Chaney, sophomore Taylor Maurer, junior Kate Gately and senior Mary Beth Howard.
"I think I put a little fire in them when I told them that they had to win it," Zeller said. "I didn't mention about the possible tie."
The scenario was simple, win the race and win the team title. A second place finish would have meant a co-championship with Hannibal.
And things did not look good early for the Longhorns, who were sixth after the first 200 yards. But Gately got the Longhorns into third place with a 52.09 leg, and Howard made her final high school swim a memorable one, with a 51.62.
Parkway West finished with a time of 3:36.25, which was 0.59 seconds faster than second place MICDS.
"I knew that we were in third place and there is always a little doubt in your mind but I felt I could do it," said Howard, who will swim next year at the University of Illinois. "It was just amazing and crazy and feels like an out-of-body experience. It is 10 times better than I thought it would be. All of the hard work this whole team put in all season totally paid off."
Zeller was all smiles as she celebrated with her exuberant swimmers. "The team showed that they handled the pressure so well," Zeller said. "We were down a little after the prelims but our divers gave us 25 points which I think mentally helped the girls. And they just got the job done."
It took the maximum effort as Parkway West finished with 182 points. Hannibal was second with 176 points.
Senior Mary Kate Hardy gave the Longhorns a big boost by defending her diving title before the swimming began. Hardy finished with 417.35 points. Natalie Gray of Parkway North was second with 402.15 points.
The highlight individually for the Longhorns was the win by Gately in the 100-yard freestyle. She won in 52.11 as she edged out Lauren Shaw of Warrensburg by a tenth of a second. Shaw had the best time in Friday's prelims. Gately was seeded fourth going into the finals."I am crying like a baby," Gately said after the win in the 100-yard freestyle. "I don't swim club like most of these girls do and I just can't believe I did it. I didn't think I could. I beat my best time by a second."
"That was a crucial first place finish for the Longhorns. Gately was also fourth in the 50-yard freestyle (24.32).
Howard had the dramatic finish but also picked up a pair of top four finishes individually. She was second in the 200-yard freestyle (1:53.52) and fourth in the 100-yard backstroke (58.91).
Parkway Central finished eighth as a team. The Colts were led by senior Emily Doerner who finished third in the 200-yard freestyle (1:55.02) and sixth in the 100-yard butterfly (58.16).