HASTINGS — Passing perhaps the stiffest test it will face in a Suburban East Conference dual meet this season, the Stillwater girls’ swimming and diving team held off upstart Hastings for a 96-86 victory on Thursday.
In addition to remaining unbeaten, the Ponies (2-0 SEC, 3-0) extended their conference winning streak to 79 in a row dating back to 2002 and have also won 93 straight dual meets overall since losing the 2003 season opener. Woodbury remains the last conference team to defeat Stillwater, which has won nine consecutive league titles.
“This looks like one of the tougher ones we’re going to have this year,” Ponies coach Brian Luke said. “We’re not going to underestimate the Woodburys and East Ridges, but Hastings was the second best team last year and certainly look to be the second best team this year. Hastings is a force to be reckoned with in the future. They have some very nice young swimmers.”
There was very little separating the Ponies in many events on Thursday, but the distance swimmers, led by Kylie Burgess and Mary Knaak, and the diving crew paced by Liz Click helped Stillwater pull out another victory.
The Raiders finished first and third to take an early lead after the 200 medley relay, but Stillwater responded with Burgess (1:58.82) and Knaak (1:59.70) finishing 1-2 in the 200 freestyle and Sophia Bisch prevailed with a winning time of 2:11.29 in the 200 individual medley.
The teams were tied 31-all going into the diving where Click (231.0), Morgan Espelien (166.55) and Natalie Tri (106.50) occupied the top three places to give the Ponies a 10-point lead. Click, who is just a second-year diver, moved into the top five on Stillwater’s all-time list with what was a career best total on Thursday — a significant improvement from a year ago when a good performance was pulling in a score in the 170s. Espelien also shattered her previous best score of 145.
“It was tied going into it and 44-34 coming out of it,” Luke said. “They’ve been working on some new dives.”
The Raiders did not go away while finishing first in the next two races, the 100 butterfly and the 100 freestyle, to climb back within five points. Knaak (5:15.17) and Burgess (5:15.31) helped Stillwater create some breathing room while placing 1-2 in the 500 freestyle.
The Ponies extended their lead with first- and third-place finishes in the 200 freestyle relay — edging Hastings by about half a second at each spot. Kristin Erf, Burgess, Knaak and Bisch won the event with a time of 1:40.53. Erf also won the 100 breastroke (1:08.37) and Stillwater closed out the meet with a victory in the 400 freestyle relay as Claire Rutscher, Knaak, Burgess and Bisch posted a winning time of 3:41.28.
“They had a good lineup and we just happened to have a little more firepower with the third people,” Luke said. “The first people are pretty close, but we also won two of the three relays and that helped. They have some girls they can move around and they were able to spread their talent out to try and win as many events as possible.
“It was a very arduous two-and-a-half hours with a lot of close races — some we won and some they won — so it kind of went back and forth. It was a grind, but near the end we started to pull away.”
Stillwater 96, Hastings 86
200 medley relay — 2. Stillwater (Claire Rutscher, Tiffany Vang, Kristin Erf and Sammi Potts) 1:54.66; 4. Stillwater (Abby Kunze, Megan Weaver, Lauren Quickel and Miranda Meier) 2:00.34.
200 freestyle — 1. Kylie Burgess (St) 1:58.82; 2. Mary Knaak (St) 1:59.70; 4. Kate Gallagher (St) 2:03.58.
200 individual medley — 1. Sophia Bisch (St) 2:11.29; 4. Abby Kunze (St) 2:18.69; 5. Sophie Barnes (St) 2:24.85.
50 freestyle — 2. Kristin Erf (St) 25.38; 4. Sammi Potts (St) 26.64; 6. Miranda Meier (St) 27.10.
Diving — 1. Liz Click (St) 231.0; 2. Morgan Espelien (St) 166.55; 3. Natalie Tri (St) 106.50.
100 butterfly — 2. Sophia Bisch (St) 59.24; 4. Tiffany Vang (St) 1:03.76; 6. Lauren Quickel (St) 1:06.91.
100 freestyle — 2. Claire Rutscher (St) 54.56; 4. Sammi Potts (St) 57.52; 5. Kate Gallagher (St) 57.59.
500 freestyle — 1. Mary Knaak (St) 5:15.17; 2. Kylie Burgess (St) 5:15.31; 5. Hannah Sneden (St) 5:34.60.
200 freestyle relay — 1. Stillwater (Kristin Erf, Kylie Burgess, Mary Knaak and Sophia Bisch) 1:40.53; 3. Stillwater (Miranda Meier, Tiffany Vang, Kate Gallagher and Sammi Potts) 1:46.06.
100 backstroke — 2. Claire Rutscher (St) 59.92; 3. Abby Kunze (St) 1:03.36; 5. Megan Letkeman (St) 1:05.50.
100 breastroke — 1. Kristin Erf (St) 1:08.37; 3. Tiffany Vang (St) 1:12.09; 5. Megan Weaver (St) 1:17.24.
400 freestyle relay — 1. Stillwater (Claire Rutscher, Mary Knaak, Kylie Burgess and Sophia Bisch) 3:41.28; 3. Stillwater (Kate Gallagher, Hannah Sneden, Abby Doeksen and Abby Kunze) 3:53.67.