It would be an impressive performance in a run-of-the-mill dual meet, but the Stillwater girls’ swimming and diving team recorded first-place finishes in 11 of 12 events to easily prevail in Saturday’s eight-team Section 4AA Meet at Stillwater Junior High School.
The Ponies totaled 629 points to easily surpass runner-up Centennial (424.5) and third-place Roseville (258) for the team’s 11th consecutive section championship — and 13th overall under coach Brian Luke, who has also won nine section titles as coach of the Stillwater boys.
“It’s a fun meet and we try not to take it for granted,” Luke said. “It’s the last time the team is really together, so that makes it fun.”
The roster might be smaller this week, but the Ponies will be well represented with a total of 11 athletes making up 16 entries at the state meet later this week at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Stillwater has covered 11 of the 12 events for the three-day meet, which kicks off with diving preliminaries and semifinals on Thursday and swimming prelims on Friday. The finals are slated for Saturday.
Four Ponies are scheduled to compete in four events at state, led by Kylie Burgess, Sophia Bisch and Claire Rutscher, who were each double winners in individual events at sections. Kristin Erf also qualified for state in four events.
Bisch won the 200 individual medley in 2:06.49 and followed with a section record time of 1:05.05 to win the 100 breastroke. Erf followed in second with a time of 1:06.15 in the breastroke while Tiffany Vang placed fourth in a time of 1:08.94 to miss the state-qualifying standard by just .12.
Kylie Burgess doubled up with victories in the distance races, posting a winning time of 1:53.60 in the 200 freestyle and 5:05.68 in the 500 freestyle. She won’t be alone in competing at state in the 500 as teammates Mary Knaak (5:09.14) and Hannah Sneden (5:13.09) qualified on standard while placing second and fourth. Knaak placed third in the 200 freestyle (1:57.24) to fall just short of qualifying in that event.
“I thought we got through everything,” Luke said. “It would have been nice to get a couple more 200 kids and Tiffany just missed that breastroke — but she dropped like three seconds to get down there — and other than that we got pretty much everything.”
Rutscher won the 100 freestyle in 53.27 and led a dominating performance as the Ponies finished first through fourth in the 100 backstroke, touching the wall in 57.74. Abby Kunze also qualified for state in the backstroke with a time of 59.72 while teammates Megan Letkeman (1:01.85) and Ava Howard (1:02.14) followed in third and fourth.
“The backstrokers swept that event with really good times, which was kind of neat,” Luke said. “Everybody had (personal bests) except Claire and that eighth-grader Ava Howard is really coming along for someone who just started last year.”
In addition to the breastroke, Erf qualified for state in the 100 butterfly, an event she won with a time of 58.59.
Rutscher, Bisch, Erf and Vang won the 200 medley relay by more than 2.5 seconds after finishing with a time of 1:48.70.
Bisch, Sammi Potts, Burgess and Erf prevailed in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:38.81 while Burgess, Kunze, Knaak and Rutscher finished more than five seconds clear of the runner-up in the 400 free relay with a time of 3:36.74.
Stillwater also secured two of the four state bids available in diving, which was held on Friday night, led by sophomore Liz Click with a winning score of 336.15. In just her first year competing at the section meet, senior Morgan Espelien also qualified for state in fourth place with a score of 251.75.
“Morgan is a classic example of maximum perseverance,” said Luke, who graduated three state divers from last year’s squad. “She’s always kind of been the bridesmaid, but never the bride with all those great divers in front of her, but this year she got her chance on varsity and maximized what she did. She learned all kinds of new dives and pushed herself. You have to give these kids credit, if they keep trying they will reap the benefits.”
1. Stillwater 629; 2. Centennial 424.5; 3. Roseville 258; 4. St. Paul Central 196; 5. Tartan 177.5; 6. White Bear Lake 171.5; 7. North St. Paul 134.5; 8. St. Paul Harding 46.
200 medley relay — *1. Stillwater (Claire Rutscher, Sophia Bisch, Kristin Erf and Tiffany Vang) 1:48.70; *2. Centennial, 1:51.25.
200 freestyle — *1. Kylie Burgess (St) 1:53.60; *2. Alyssa Udean (Cen) 1:56.88; 3. Mary Knaak (St) 1:57.24; 5. Hannah Sneden (St) 1:58.97; Sophie Barnes (St) DQ.
200 individual medley — *1. Sophia Bisch (St) 2:06.49; *2. Tara Chapman (Cen) 2:08.67; 4 Abby Kunze (St) 2:13.63; 5. Megan Letkeman (St) 2:16.19; 7. Kate Gallagher (St) 2:20.88.
50 freestyle — *1. Kate Nelson (SPC) 25.05; *2. Kaila Chapman (Cen) 25.23; 4. Sammi Potts (St) 25.64; 6. Miranda Meier (St) 25.97; 8. Robyn Doughty (St) 26.34; 14. Lauren Quickel (St) 26.54.
Diving — *1. Liz Click (St) 336.15; *2. Lauren Teeters (Tar) 276.95; *3. Sienna Lundeen (SPC) 265.0; *4. Morgan Espelien (St) 251.75.
100 butterfly — *1. Kristin Erf (St) 58.59; *2. Anna Udean (Cen) 59.54; 4. Tiffany Vang (St) 1:02.52; 5. Lauren Quickel (St) 1:03.08; 10. Abby Peterson (St) 1:06.03.
100 freestyle — *1. Claire Rutscher (St) 53.27; *2. Lauren Kacmarynski (Ros) 55.18; 4. Sammi Potts (St) 55.98; 7. Ava Howard (St) 56.64; 8. Kate Gallagher (St) 56.91.
500 freestyle — *1. Kylie Burgess (St) 5:05.68; *2. Mary Knaak (St) 5:09.14; *3. Alyssa Udean (Cen) 5:10.17; *4. Hannah Sneden (St) 5:13.09; 6. Sophie Barnes (St) 5:28.38.
200 freestyle relay — *1. Stillwater (Sophia Bisch, Sammi Potts, Kylie Burgess and Kristin Erf) 1:38.81; *2. Centennial, 1:39.73.
100 backstroke — *1. Claire Rutscher (St) 57.74; *2. Abby Kunze (St) 59.72; 3. Megan Letkeman (St) 1:01.85; 4. Ava Howard (St) 1:02.14.
100 breastroke — *1. Sophia Bisch (St) 1:05.05; *2. Kristin Erf (St) 1:06.15; *3. Tara Chapman (Cen) 1:06.40; 4. Tiffany Vang (St) 1:08.94; 6. Megan Weaver (St) 1:12.86.
400 freestyle relay — *1. Stillwater (Kylie Burgess, Abby Kunze, Mary Knaak and Claire Rutscher) 3:36.74; *2. Centennial, 3:41.88.
* state qualifier
# meet record