MINNEAPOLIS — There was nothing third-rate about Stillwater’s third-place showing at the girls’ swimming and diving Class AA True Team state meet on Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
The Ponies, who have won seven True Team state titles in the nine-year history of the meet, climbed up to third place on Saturday to exceed the performance suggested by pre-race seed times.
Minnetonka scored 2,203 points to claim top honors in front of runner-up Wayzata (2,100) while the Ponies finished third at 2,066.5 — more than 100 points ahead of fourth-place Eden Prairie (1,960).
“It was great,” Ponies coach Brian Luke said. “From where the girls started, which was 300 points (on paper) out of third and 400 points out of first, and end up getting third and being right in the mix for the top three was fantastic. We had 100 percent lifetime or seasonal bests at the meet, it’s hard to ask for more than that — and they weren’t going just a little faster, they were going a lot faster. It was really great.”
Based on times from the various section meets, Stillwater was going to require an inspired performance to crack the top three of Minnetonka, Wayzata and Eden Prairie.
“There’s a lot of points in the meet, but when we had a team meeting the day before we said let’s try to gain 250 points. It’s funny, but they gained 252 — I should have said 350,” Luke quipped. “That’s a lot of points to gain, but every kid that jumped in the water gained some points. It was a big hill to climb and they did catch Eden Prairie, but we couldn’t catch the other two. It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort.”
Senior Claire Rutscher won the 100 freestyle (52.29) and 100 backstroke (57.15) — the only individual double winner in the entire meet — while Sophia Bisch touched the wall first in the 200 individual medley (1:06.48) to give the Ponies three first-place finishes. Bisch followed that up with a second-place effort in the 100 breastroke in a time of 1:04.96 — breaking the Stillwater school record set by Mady Gockowski at 1:05.28 a year ago. Kristin Erf wasn’t far behind in the breastroke, placing fifth with a time of 1:07.22.
“Bisch obliterated that IM heat,” Luke said.
Minnetonka took control early and never looked back while Stillwater and Wayzata battled back and forth throughout much of the evening. The Trojans created some breathing room after the sprints and held off a charge from the Ponies, who are strong in several of the later events.
“Wayzata had a bigger lead that we wore away, but teams at that caliber don’t have weak events, they just have less strong events,” Luke said. “They’re still throwing pretty good swimmers in there, too, and I thought those were some of our better events down toward the end.”
The Ponies flexed their muscle in the distance events while placing four swimmers among the top 12 in the 200 freestyle and occupying four of the top nine spots in the 500 freestyle. Kylie Burgess (1:54.18) and Mary Knaak (1:56.52) placed third and sixth in the 200 free and third (5:04.0) and fourth (5:04.50) in the 500 free. Hannah Sneden (5:17.14) and Sophie Barnes (5:18.12) followed in eighth and ninth for Stillwater in the event.
Led by Rutscher, Luke was also pleased with the team’s showing in the backstroke, which was an event filled with plenty of question marks coming into the season. Abby Kunze finished eighth with a time of 1:00.07 and teammates Megan Letkeman (1:02.41) and Ava Howard (1:03.00) followed in 18th and 22nd.
“We’ve had some great backstroke teams in the past, but I think that’s the best from top to bottom,” Luke said. “At the beginning of the year we were like we don’t have any backstrokers, but they’ve just come along unbelievably. It’s unbelievable what these kids will do from the beginning of the season to the end of the season.”
Stillwater finished second in the 200 medley relay to start the meet and closed it out with a runner-up finish in the 400 freestyle relay. The time that Rutscher, Bisch, Erf and Burgess posted in the medley relay eclipsed the previous meet record, but was not enough to overtake Wayzata (1:47.04) for first. The same Ponies foursome turned in a time of 3:32.18 to place behind only Minnetonka (3:31.73) in the 400 free relay.
And while it wasn’t enough to win yet another True Team state title, it was a strong showing for a team that graduated 22 athletes from last year’s surprise winner.
“I walked away, and the girls walked away, completely exhilarated,” said Luke, who added the Ponies appeared more likely to land in the sixth- to eighth-place range coming into the season. “We are what we are — and we graduated a lot of power off last year’s team.”
The Ponies can clinch their 10th consecutive Suburban East Conference championship outright on Wednesday when they travel to Woodbury to face East Ridge in their regular season finale.
1. Minnetonka 2,203; 2. Wayzata 2,100.5; 3. Stillwater 2,066.5; 4. Eden Prairie 1,960; 5. Edina 1,648.5; 6. Mounds View 1,500; 7. Maple Grove 1,140.5; 8. Rosemount 1,131.5; 9, tie, Hastings 1,087.5; 9. Lakeville North 1,087.5; 11. East Ridge 1,078.5; 12. Blaine 561.
200 medley relay — *1. Wayzata A, 1:47.04; 2. Stillwater A (Claire Rutscher, Sophia Bisch, Kristin Erf and Kylie Burgess) 1:47.70; 10. Stillwater B (Abby Kunze, Tiffany Vang, Lauren Quickel and Sammi Potts) 1:53.66; 20. Stillwater C (Megan Letkeman, Megan Weaver, Abby Peterson and Miranda Meier) 1:57.99; 25. Stillwater D (Ava Howard, Olivia Bloomquist, Greta Peterson and Anne Campbell) 2:00.54.
200 freestyle — 1. Amelia Schilling (Min) 1:51.74; 3. Kylie Burgess (St) 1:54.18; 6. Mary Knaak (St) 1:56.52; 10. Sophie Barnes (St) 1:58.86; 12. Hannah Sneden (St) 1:59.26.
200 individual medley — 1. Sophia Bisch (St) 1:06.48; 11. Abby Kunze (St) 2:15.07; 23. Megan Letkeman (St) 2:19.40; 34. Megan Weaver (St) 2:26.33.
50 freestyle — 1. Emma Paulson (Way) 24.03; 17. Sammi Potts (St) 25.91; 22. Miranda Meier (St) 26.21; 23. Kate Gallagher (St) 26.22; 27. Lauren Quickel (St) 26.37.
Diving — 1. Lexi Tenenbaum (MG) 435.80; 9. Liz Click (St) 345.25; 16. Morgan Espelien (St) 197.90; 25. Madeline Gilbert (St) 102.00; 31. Grace Donner (St) 89.45.
100 butterfly — 1. Bre Thorne (EP) 56.69; 5. Kristin Erf (St) 59.10; 13. Tiffany Vang (St) 1:00.92; 25. Lauren Quickel (St) 1:02.54; 32. Abby Peterson (St) 1:06.03.
100 freestyle — 1. Claire Rutscher (St) 52.29; 17. Sammi Potts (St) 56.34; 17. Ava Howard (St) 56.53; 22. Kate Gallagher (St) 56.89.
500 freestyle — 1. Kira Zubar (EP) 4:59.91; 3. Kylie Burgess (St) 5:04.00; 4. Mary Knaak (St) 5:04.50; 8. Hannah Sneden (St) 5:17.14; 9. Sophie Barnes (St) 5:18.12.
200 freestyle relay — 1. Minnetonka A, 1:37.27; 8. Stillwater A (Sammi Potts, Tiffany Vang, Kate Gallagher and Mary Knaak) 1:42.34; 18. Stillwater B (Miranda Meier, Anne Campbell, Lauren Quickel and Sophie Barnes) 1:46.73; 23. Stillwater C (Maddy Verette, Abby Doeksen, Alex Howard and Hannah Sneden) 1:47.27; 24. Stillwater D (Lauren Elowson, Robyn Doughty, Carley Christian and Olivia Bloomquist) 1:48.68.
100 backstroke — 1. Claire Rutscher (St) 57.15; 8. Abby Kunze (St) 1:00.07; 18. Megan Letkeman (St) 1:02.41; 22. Ava Howard (St) 1:03.00.
100 breastroke — *1. Olivia Anderson (Ed) 1:04.25; 2. Sophia Bisch (St) 1:04.96; 5. Kristin Erf (St) 1:07.22; 11. Tiffany Vang (St) 1:10.28; 23. Megan Weaver (St) 1:13.49.
400 freestyle relay — 1. Minnetonka A, 3:31.73; 2. Stillwater A (Sophia Bisch, Kristin Erf, Kylie Burgess and Claire Rutscher) 3:32.18; 9. Stillwater B (Mary Knaak, Kate Gallagher, Ava Howard and Samantha Berns) 3:43.23; 15. Stillwater C (Abby Kunze, Megan Letkeman, Miranda Meier and Hannah Sneden) 3:45.96; 22. Stillwater D (Anne Campbell, Abby Doeksen, Alex Howard and Robyn Doughty) 3:53.09.
* Meet record