Girls swimming and diving: Balanced Ponies place sixth at state

Gazette photos by Scott Ertle
Stillwater senior Claire Rutscher dives into the water to start the 100 backstroke finals on Saturday at the girls’ swimming and diving state meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis. Rutscher finished sixth in the event to earn all-state honors with a time of 57.32.

MINNEAPOLIS — Receiving all-state performances in eight of 12 events, the Stillwater girls’ swimming and diving team took a balanced approach to placing sixth at Saturday’s Class AA state meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

The Ponies, who featured entries in the championship or consolation finals in 11 of 12 events, totaled 172 points to place finish just one point behind fifth-place Chanhassen — which by contrast scored the majority of its points on the strength of four individual titles and a victory in the 400 freestyle relay.

Edina scored 228 points to win the team championship following a bizarre series of events (see more below) that took away an apparent title from Minnetonka, which was disqualified from all three relays to finish fourth with 200.5 points. Wayzata (222) finished just six points behind Edina in second place and Eden Prairie was third at 220.

Sophomore Sophia Bisch delivered a third-place finish for the Ponies in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:04.29.

This marked the ninth straight year Stillwater has placed among the top six at the MSHSL state meet, including top-three finishes seven times.

“It was pretty good,” Ponies coach Brian Luke said. “We went in with about 130 points on paper and ended up with 170-something so we gained like 40 points.”

Stillwater’s performance at state and all season is notable when you consider the departure of 22 seniors off last year’s third-place state finisher. The Ponies not only extended their dual meet winning streak to 101, but also placed third at True Team state.

Stillwater’s top finish came from sophomore Sophia Bisch in the 200 individual medley, where she finished third in 2:04.29 — a time that ranks second on the team’s all-time list behind former state champion Kaela Anderson (2:04.19).

Bisch posted the fastest time in prelimaries at 2:04.86 and went even faster in the finals, but was passed up by two swimmers, including winner Kasey Roberts of St. Michael-Albertville with a time of 2:02.63.

Stillwater freshman Abby Kunze competes on Saturday in the consolation finals of the 100 backstroke, where she placed 14th in a time of 58.83.

Bisch also hit an All-American Consideration time while placing sixth in the 100 breastroke (1:04.59). She broke the school record in the event while posting a time of 1:04.33 in prelims. Kristin Erf, who joined Bisch, Claire Rutscher and Kylie Burgess in competing in four events at state, followed in ninth place in the breastroke with a time of 1:05.43. Bisch and Erf (1:05.11) rank 1-2 on Stillwater’s all-time list in the event.

Burgess also delivered all-state performances in two individual events, placing fourth in the 500 freestyle (4:58.40) and eighth in the 200 freestyle (1:52.80). The Ponies had three entries in the 500 free and Mary Knaak followed with a 10th-place finish with a time of 5:03.84. Hannah Sneden narrowly missed the finals after turning in a qualifying time of 5:12.27.

“They were all very fast,” Luke said. “Hannah didn’t make the finals but had a lifetime best so you can’t really knock that.”

Rutscher, who set the school record in the 100 backstroke a year ago, placed sixth in this year’s event with a time of 1:04.59. Freshman Abby Kunze finished 14th in the backstroke with a time of 58.83 — a significant move upward after being seeded 25th coming into the state meet.

Rutscher added an 11th-place finish in the 100

“Kunze had a great meet. She had to leap frog over a lot of people so that was great,” Luke said. “She went 1:02 last year and 59.7 at sections and then 58.7 (in prelims) there and repeated it in the finals so it was a great meet for her.”

Rutscher, Bisch, Erf and Knaak opened Saturday’s finals with a solid showing in the 200 medley relay, placing fifth with a time of 1:47.33 — an All-American Consideration time. Stillwater also finished sixth in the 400 freestyle relay with Bisch, Burgess, Knaak and Rutscher combining for a time of 3:32.73.

Also earning all-state honors on Saturday was sophomore diver Liz Click, who capped her first state meet with three solid dives in the finals to move up from 13th to eighth place with a score of 351.90 — nearly seven points in front of the ninth-place finisher to earn a spot on the podium.

“Liz had three solid dives in the finals,” Luke said. “You’ve just got to hang in there and she was very consistent and those people in front had maybe one dive that maybe wasn’t quite as good as hers.”

The Ponies also received points from Erf placing 11th in the 100 butterfly (57.94) and the 200 freestyle relay team of Burgess, Knaak, Tiffany Vang and Erf, who placed 13th with a time of 1:39.16.

“They swam pretty good on Friday,” Luke said. “They only one we wish we could have had was Mary in the championship heat, but other than that they all got in the correct heat and it’s just a matter of holding your own when you get in there.”

Just four of Stillwater’s 11 state qualifiers are seniors, a list that includes Rutscher, Sneden, Sammi Potts and diver Morgan Espelien.

“I’ve said it before, but I think this team from beginning to end was one of the most improved teams I’ve coached,” said Luke, who wrapped up his 38th season as head coach. “Good senior leadership is a major factor in that and holding together as a unit, they were really good at that. They really functioned as a team, which really elevates everybody’s performance.”


Skippers lose title

It was a strange scene following Saturday’s state finals when in the midst of the award ceremony it was discovered that Minnetonka used a different relay than its relay cards indicated. The discovery cost the Skippers a state team championship and a state title in the 400 freestyle relay — just moments after thinking they had broken Stillwater’s all-time state record in the event.

The MSHSL issued a statement with the corrected results — which was delivered after the eventual champion and runner-up were presented their second- and third-place trophies.

The statement read: “After team awards were announced in which Minnetonka was awarded the team championship, meet officials discovered that several rules were violated involving relay team entries by the Minnetonka coaches. The violations led to Minnetonka’s disqualification in all three relays in the meet. The disqualifications changed the scoring and dropped Minnetonka to fourth place.”

In addition to the team trophies, the relay disqualifications required an exchange of medals for each relay that finished behind the Skippers and those are still getting sorted out.

“It was unfortunate, but it’s a rule,” Luke said. “When coaches make a mistake and the kids get penalized it’s unfortunate.”


Team standings (top 10)

1. Edina 228; 2. Wayzata 222; 3. Eden Prairie 220; 4. Minnetonka 200.5; 5. Chanhassen 173; 6. Stillwater 172; 7. Robbinsdale Armstrong 122.5; 8. Burnsville 105; 9. Rochester John Marshall 83; 10. Lakeville North 80.


Individual results

200 medley relay — 1. Edina, 1:43.97; 5. Stillwater (Claire Rutscher, Sophia Bisch, Kristin Erf and Mary Knaak) 1:47.33. Prelims: 5. Stillwater (Claire Rutscher, Sophia Bisch, Kristin Erf and Tiffany Vang) 1:47.77.

200 freestyle — 1. Amelia Schilling (Minnetonka) 1:48.61; 8. Kylie Burgess (St) 1:52.80. Prelims: 8. Burgess, 1:52.44.

200 individual medley — 1. Kasey Roberts (STMA) 2:02.63; 3. Sophia Bisch (St) 2:04.29. Prelims: 1. Bisch, 2:04.86.

50 freestyle — 1. Kaia Grobe (Chanhassen) 23.06.

Diving — 1. Lexi Tenenbaum (Maple Grove) 448.35; 8. Liz Click (St) 351.90. Semis: 13. Click, 244.60. Prelims: 13. Click, 157.15 and 28. Morgan Espelien (St) 118.45.

100 butterfly — 1. Zoe Avestruz (Chanhassen) 54.30; 11. Kristin Erf (St) 57.94. Prelims: 10. Erf, 57.99.

100 freestyle — 1. Kaia Grobe (Chanhasen) 49.97; 11. Claire Rutscher (St) 52.91. Prelims: 12. Rutscher, 53.06.

500 freestyle — *1. Amelia Schilling (Minnetonka) 4:48.96; 4. Kylie Burgess (St) 4:58.40; 10. Mary Knaak (St) 5:03.84. Prelims: 6. Burgess, 5:00.57; 10. Knaak, 5:05.62; 19. Hannah Sneden (St) 5:12.27.

200 freestyle relay — 1. Eden Prairie, 1:35.65; 13. Stillwater (Kylie Burgess, Mary Knaak, Tiffany Vang and Kristin Erf) 1:39.16. Prelims: 11. Stillwater (Kylie Burgess, Mary Knaak, Sammi Potts and Kristin Erf) 1:39.16.

100 backstroke — 1. Zoe Avestruz (Chanhassen) 53.50; 6. Claire Rutscher (St) 57.32; 14. Abby Kunze (St) 58.83. Prelims: 7. Rutscher, 57.61; 15. Kunze, 58.78.

100 breastroke — 1. Olivia Anderson (Edina) 1:02.96; 6. Sophia Bisch (St) 1:04.59; 9. Kristin Erf (St) 1:05.43. Prelims: #5. Bisch, 1:04.33; 9. Erf, 1:05.11.

400 freestyle relay — 1. Chanhassen, 3:26.23; 6. Stillwater (Sophia Bisch, Kylie Burgess, Mary Knaak and Claire Rutscher) 3:32.73. Prelims: 7. Stillwater (Sophia Bisch, Kylie Burgess, Mary Knaak and Claire Rutscher) 3:33.12.


* All-time state record

# Stillwater school record