Three Park City swimmers earn academic accolades
The Park City High School swim team celebrated its three swimmers who garnered Academic All-State awards at its season-end banquet in February with seniors Jessi Beyer, Emma Strong-Conklin and Elise Beller all meeting the cut for the honors distributed by the Utah High School Activities Association.
The last Park City swimmer to win Academic All-State honors was Haley Fort in the 2015-2016 season, so to have three recipients in one grade is something special, coach Mike Werner said.
“One is pretty awesome, two is great, three is pretty amazing,” Werner said. “Every one of them has been a leader since they’ve been with us.”
To qualify, Beller, Beyer and Strong-Conklin needed combined unweighted GPAs of 4.0, or to meet an indexed score that combines GPA and standardized test scores.
The swimmers and Werner say it’s the unweighted part that’s tricky, because it doesn’t account for the rigor of advanced placement classes.
“Sometimes we haven’t had kids get it when in actuality they probably deserve it just as much because of their strength of schedule of classes that they have,” Werner said.
And AP classes are a sizable part of the education at Park City.
For example, Beyer is taking five AP classes this year, and says she has a weighted GPA of 4.4.
“I feel like if I do work hard in school, it allows me to apply to many more schools and opens up many more pathways for me,” she said, explaining her drive to succeed.
That drive is shared by her teammates, with whom she has swum with since elementary school.
They have taken many of the same classes, and say if they need help understanding the material or what a teacher expects, they can turn to each other for help.
“All three of us were highly involved in the AP system,” Strong-Conklin said. “If I was struggling with physics, for example, I could go to Jessi and ask if she knew any advice for the classes I was taking, similarly with calculus and psychology.”
Beyer said she and Elise have several classes together, and often work together on group projects.
“When we get to class, we always have something to talk about,” she said, referring to their shared swimming experience. “It’s like an automatic partner, someone that’s easy to work with because our schedules are so similar.”
Werner also encourages academic success by requiring a higher academic standard when selecting the travel team.
He requires a 2,5 GPA rather than the standard 2.0 prerequisite, and requires students to have no failing grades during the season in order to travel.
“We’ve typically had some of the highest GPAs in the school,” he said. “I don’t think we’re the highest, but we’re near the top.”
Of course, Beyer, Beller and Strong-Conklin aren’t just good students, they’re sharks. The three of them are some of the best swimmers in the state.
At the Class 4A state championship meet on Feb. 8 and 9, Beller took first in the 200 yard individual medley, the 500 freestyle, contributed to the 200 yard freestyle relay team’s first-place finish and anchored the 400 yard freestyle relay team in its state-winning run alongside Beyer, sophomore Helena Djunic and Strong-Conklin. She also won state Swimmer of the Meet.
Beyer helped the 200 yard medley relay team take third and took fourth in the 100 breaststroke in addition to her role on the 400 freestyle relay team.
Strong-Conklin took sixth in the 100 backstroke, helped the 200 freestyle relay team take first, and took sixth in the individual 200 freestyle.
“Both Emma and Elise, they were on the leadership council this year and Jessie played a pivotal role as a senior being a leader as well – always leading by example, always looking out for the good of the team as well as themselves,” Werner said. “This is not just in the pool but in the classroom as well. They always excelled at their studies, made sure they got everything done. And they were truly the epitome of what a student athlete is.”
All three of them are four-year PCHS students.
Strong-Conklin will be attending University of Southern California next year, though she will not pursue swimming. Beller will swim for the University of Utah next season and is planning to pursue a pre-nursing major before going to nursing school.
Beyer plans on attending Scripps Women’s College in Claremont, California, where she plans on playing on the water polo team and will be studying engineering.
Beyer said after going through school and swimming with Strong-Conklin and Beller, she feels like no matter where they end up, they will have each other.
“It’s been so nice to have them and to grow up with them,” Beyer said. “Even down the line, I feel like I can always call them.”