Track and field: Ponies optimistic for True Team state

By STUART GROSKREUTZ – Stillwater Gazette

The Stillwater track and field teams have different styles and strengths, but both carry optimism into Friday’s True Team state meet at Stillwater Area High School.

The Stillwater girls have won five consecutive multi-team events, including Thursday’s True Team Section 2AAA meet over runner-up East Ridge by 48 points. The Ponies, who placed seventh a year ago, have advanced to state 21 times in the 26-year history of the event – including nine top-five finishes since 2000.

On the boys’ side, Stillwater enjoyed a more comfortable victory at the Section 2AAA meet to qualify for its 22nd state meet in 26 years. The Ponies placed fourth a year ago, but could have a tough time cracking the top-three anticipated favorites Andover, Minnetonka and Wayzata.

"Andover won the Pony Classic and, not only won, but if you look back they dominated the Pony Classic against a bunch of teams that are at True Team state," Stillwater coach Scott Christensen said. "They have to be one of the favorites and the other two are Minnetonka and Wayzata."

On paper, the Ponies are probably in the second group of contenders that also includes Rosemount, White Bear Lake and Mounds View. The Ponies received some bad news on Wednesday when junior distance runner Tayler Aarness broke his toe while playing Frisbee and will likely miss the rest of the season, creating some minor lineup changes for Friday.

"Sometimes those things create opportunities for others," Christensen said. "I don’t believe in fate, just opportunity, and when those things happen it creates opportunity for others."

Stillwater won the MSHSL state title a year ago while placing fourth at True Team state and this year’s team also is stronger in formats where fewer people score – which is opposite of the Stillwater girls, who use their balance and depth more than star power to find success.

The Ponies overcame a disqualification in the 4×200 relay and another non-finish in the 100 hurdles in winning the section meet, but will need a cleaner performance on Friday to move up from last year’s seventh-place showing.

Class AAA True Team Track and Field State

The 26th Annual True Team state meet, which is sponsored by the Minnesota State Track Coaches Association, is conducted at Stillwater Area High School. The Class AAA competition takes place on Friday, beginning with field events starting at 4 p.m. and the first race starting at 4:30 p.m. The Class A (10 a.m.) and Class AA (3 p.m.) meets are held on Saturday.

Boys field

Rochester Mayo (1), Stillwater (2), Rosemount (3), Andover (4), White Bear Lake (5), Mounds View (6), Minnetonka (7), Buffalo (8) and Wayzata (WC).

Girls field

Lakeville South (1), Stillwater (2), Prior Lake (3), Elk River (4), Forest Lake (5), Mounds View (6), Minnetonka (7), Moorhead (8) and Lakeville North (WC).