MINNEAPOLIS — The Stillwater boys capped a gratifying season on Saturday at the Class AA boys’ swimming and diving state meet. The Ponies did not place anyone on the medal stand, but most of its 11 entries advanced to the finals and contributed 42 points and a 16th-place finish for a team that all season banked on balance and depth rather than the star power that makes teams contenders at this event.
Eden Prairie delivered a dominating performance to win the state championship with a staggering 344 points — despite a disqualification after first appearing to win the 400 freestyle relay. Edina followed in second place with 237 points and Minnetonka was third at 177.5.
“They were definitely the class of the field, no one was going to overtake them,” Ponies coach Brian Luke said of the Eagles.
Hastings led three Suburban East Conference schools in the top eight with 133 points to place fourth.
Outside of diving, which is not seeded, the Ponies featured just one entry that was seeded among the top 16 going into the state meet, but the Ponies advanced eight of their 11 entries to the finals, including all three relays.
“That was more than I thought we’d get,” Luke said of the 42 team points. “If you had asked me three weeks ago I would have said you were nuts.”
Senior diver Liam Gibb came the closest to landing on the medal stand and earning all-state honors, but placed ninth with a score of 330.20 — less than one point behind eighth-place Caleb Zarns (331.15) of Wayzata.
“Initially I was a big disappointed with falling short of getting a medal and getting that close, but I was thankful because not everybody gets to that position to go to state so I was thankful for the chance,” said Gibb, competing at sate for the fifth time in his career. “I think there’s always that feeling of what-if and just that feeling you could have done better, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
It was the highest finish for Gibb, who helped anchor a strong trio of divers for the Ponies. Sophomore Anthony Shanley placed 15th in his first state appearance with a score of 293.30 and fellow sophomore Colin Eason, who placed first at the section meet, finished 18th after Thursday’s semifinals to narrowly miss out on a spot in the state finals.
“They’ve definitely been good competition and kept me on my toes all season long,” Gibb said. “We all push each other to want to do better.”
Gibb was one of just four seniors among Stillwater’s 13 who were part of the state contingent, a list that also includes Alex Burback, Dominick Jankowski and Lucas Magilke.
“I think any senior who goes to state is thinking it’s the last meet of the year and potentially the last of their high school careers, but as long as I know I tried my best I should be satisfied no matter what the outcome,” Gibb said.
Stillwater’s best finish in a swimming event came in the 200 freestyle relay where Marcus Green, Burback, Alex Percival and Tom Windett placed 12th in a time of 1:28.95. The Ponies added 13th-place finishes in the 400 freestyle relay with Brady Anderson, Jesse Busse, Windett and Jon Busse (3:16.84) and the 200 medley relay with Green, Riley Hollerbach, Anderson and Windett.
Green did not swim in the 200 free relay at sections, but as the team’s fastest sprinter helped the Ponies drop more than a second off that time at the state meet. It came with a cost, however, as Green was also entered in the next event, the 100 backstroke where he failed to advance to the finals. Brady Anderson did qualify in the backstroke and placed 14th with a time of 53.72 — which is fast enough to land him on Stillwater’s all-time dual meet dream team.
“I thought it was a good move to have (Green) swim that 200 free relay,” Luke said. “He’s our fastest swimmer so it seemed logical to have our fastest swimmer on that relay, but coming back off that is tough.”
Anderson added a 16th-place finish in the 100 butterfly with a time of 54.10 and Green turned in a 16th-place finish in the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.23. Both qualified for the finals with no room to spare, ranking 16th following Friday’s preliminaries.
The Ponies also claimed the final qualifying spot in the 200 medley relay, so falling inside the cut line certainly helped fill out the card for Saturday’s finals.
Dominic Jankowski set a personal record while competing in the 500 freestyle, but missed out on the finals after placing 20th in prelims with a time of 4:51.46 — which ranks No. 4 on Stillwater’s all-time list.
“They all swam faster, except Marcus coming out of that relay,” Luke said. “Everyone swam faster and the medley relay dropped over a second, the 200 free relay over a second and the 400 free relay over two seconds — and the individuals got faster. It’s exciting to go over there and swim faster.”
It was a solid performance in an event that does not favor Stillwater’s strength, at least compared to True Team state where the Ponies finished third. Luke’s father and hall of fame coach Elmer Luke also had high praise for this group — and he’s seen more than a few over the past five decades.
“We’ve said this all year, but you just go with it,” Luke said. “It was a great year. Like my dad said, we’re the most improved team from beginning to end and I would agree with that. They really improved and came together and had fun.”
“I thought that we all finished very well, almost every single person in our event, the relays and individuals — we finished about 10 spots ahead of where we were seeded, which was pretty cool,” Gibb added. “The team definitely exceeded my expectations this year. We lost a lot of great swimmers last year — like swimmers who were record holders — and to be honest, I wasn’t sure how this year was going to turn out. We definitely rose to the occasion as far as replacing the seniors we lost and we did a good job of holding our ground.”
Team standings (top 10)
1. Eden Prairie 344; 2. Edina 237; 3. Minnetonka 177.5; 4. Hastings 133; 5. Lakeville South 130.5; 6. East Ridge 120; 7. Rosemount 113; 8. Mounds View 90; 9. St. Michael-Albertville 88; 10. Wayzata 79; 16. Stillwater 42.
200 medley relay — 1. Eden Prairie, 1:32.64; 13. Stillwater (Marcus Green, Riley Hollerbach, Brady Anderson and Tom Windett) 1:40.01. Prelims: 16. Stillwater, 1:39.77.
200 freestyle — *1. Noah Lucas (Mounds View) 1:37.30.
200 individual medley — 1. Jackson Lindell (Edina) 1:51.43.
50 freestyle — 1. Aaron Greenberg (Eden Prairie) 20.65; 16. Marcus Green (St) 22.23. Prelims: 16. Green, 22.10.
Diving — 1. Daniel Monaghan (Rosemount) 413.10; 9. Liam Gibb (St) 330.20; 15. Anthony Shanley (St) 293.30. Semifinals: 6. Gibb, 245.90 and 13. Shanley, 222.30. Prelims: 7. Gibb, 165.20, 10. Shanley, 155.45 and 18. Colin Eason (St) 136.95.
100 butterfly — 1. Bryce Boston (Eden Prairie) 49.86; 16. Brady Anderson (St) 54.10. Prelims: 16. Anderson, 53.56.
100 freestyle — 1. Aaron Greenberg (Eden Prairie) 45.10.
500 freestyle — *1. Noah Lucas (Mounds View) 4:26.47. Prelims: 20. Dominic Jankowski (St) 4:51.46.
200 freestyle relay — 1. Eden Prairie, 1:24.67; 12. Stillwater (Marcus Green, Alex Burback, Alex Percival and Tom Windett) 1:28.95. Prelims: 12, Stillwater, 1:29.20.
100 backstroke — 1. Noah Busch (Minnetonka) 49.14; 14. Brady Anderson (St) 53.72. Prelims: 15. Anderson, 53.65; 27. Marcus Green (St) 55.56.
100 breastroke — 1. Ben Albert (Burnsville) 57.12.
400 freestyle relay — 1. Edina, 3:06.00; 13. Stillwater (Brady Anderson, Jesse Busse, Tom Windett and Jon Busse) 3:16.84. Prelims: 12. Stillwater, 3:16.75.
* All-time state record.