MINNEAPOLIS — Synchronized swimming has not been a hotbed for parity in the 40-year history of the state meet, but that is good news for Stillwater after its 10th consecutive runner-up finish on Friday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
The Ponies totaled 101 points to finish second behind Wayzata, which posted a winning score of 143 to capture its seventh straight state championship.
Stillwater has never finished lower than second at state and its latest runner-up showing is the program’s 22nd overall to go along with 18 state titles. The Ponies last won state in 2003, but they also reasserted themselves as the clear No. 2 behind the Trojans after finishing 105 points behind Wayzata and just seven points in front of third-place Edina at state last spring.
“I was absolutely happy behond belief,” said Ponies coach Kathy Henderson, who admitted to feeling some pressure to live up to the program’s high expectations in her first year as head coach. “I wanted to close that gap and we gained at least 50 points so we just got that much better.
“I was nervous about not knowing exactly how some of those west metro teams look. Edina and St. Louis Park were right behind us (last year) and we knew they were going to be really strong. We were so close to third or fourth last year, it was a concern coming in. We’d hate to be the first to not get second place, but our girls swam so well.”
The Ponies scored well in the short events, led by Mariah Smith — one of just two seniors on the team and one of just eight athletes named to the all-state team. Smith, who posted the highest short figures score at 63.793, won the short solo competition with a score of 65.815 — which was a sign of things to come in the short division.
“She is just dynamite,” Henderson said. “She is such a mature young woman and such a strong girl, she swaim beautifully.”
Sophie Ogaard and Grace Zimmer claimed the top spot in the short duet with a score of 58.935 and teammates Sonia Moran, Danielle Snow and Mamie Thrall prevailed in the short trio event with a score of 59.628. Snow (59.645) and Ogaard (59.030) followed Smith with the leading figures scores in the short division.
Kaitlyn Burgess, Ogaard and Zimmer added a runner-up finish in the short trio (59.628) and the Ponies also occupied the third and fourth spots in the short duet with Snow and Mamie Thrall (58.542) and Moran and Minna Thrall (57.511).
Stillwater also delivered two of the three top performances in the extended trio, led by Katie Koenning, Skyler Olson and Vessa Pearsall in second place with a score of 64.711. Elise Adrian, Emily Adrian and Claire Haws were not far behind in third place with a score of 64.565.
The Ponies nearly swept the short division events, but placed just .287 behind Wayzata (60.339) in the short team event.
“One of my goals was to really dominate in the short division, which is the younger girls, and we did that,” Henderson said. “I was just so happy the short teams did well adn that’s a sign of what’s to come in the future. I was beyond happy with the results.”
Wayzata won all three team events, with the stillwater extended team of Elise and Emily Adrian, Sophie Barnes, Claire Haws, Katie Koenning, Skyler Olson, Vessa Pearsall and Mariah Smith placing second with a score of 67.316. The Trojans posted five of the top seven extended figures scores.
With Sami Sonnee joining Smith as the only seniors on this year’s squad, the Ponies are optimistic as they remain committed to challenging Wzyata in the years to come.
One of the meet’s highlights occurred on Thursday when Snow, an eighth-grader, placed 30th out of the nearly 300 performers in the figures competition.
“As a first-year swimmer she placed 30th overall in figures, which is really astonishing,” Henderson said. “She beat out a lot of long and extended swimmers so that was pretty awesome.”
And with the majority of its extended team expected to return, the Ponies are not resigned to continuing their run of second-place finishes at state.
“We’re losing only two seniors this year and we’re going to have seven of our eight back from our extended team next year,” Henderson said. “That goes to what our future holds. I’m going to build from that.”
l To see a photo gallery of Stillwater’s state runner-up extended team from Friday’s competition, check out the Stillwater Gazette’s Facebook page.
1. Wayzata 143; 2. Stillwater 101; 3. St. Louis Park 54; 4. Forest Lake 39; 5. Eden Prairie 24; 6. Edina 21; 7. Hopkins 12; 8. Maple Grove/Osseo 10; 9, tie, Bloomington 6 and Richfield 6; 11. Prior Lake 3; 12, tie, Columbia Heights 1 and Itasca 1.
Short — 1. Mariah Smith (St) 63.793; 2. Danielle Snow (St) 59.645; 3. Sophie Ogaard (St) 59.030.
Long — 1. Haley Ruegemer (Way) 67.062.
Extended — 1. Amanda Urke (Way) 68.404; 5. Mariah Smith (St) 63.793.
Short — 1. Mariah Smith (St) 65.813; 6. Kaitlyn Burgess (St) 56.833.
Long — 1. Haley Ruegemer (Way) 69.281; 5. Skyler Olson (St) 61.971.
Extended — 1. Amanda Urke (Way) 70.952; 9. Sami Sonnee (St) 60.664.
Short — 1. Sophie Ogaard-Grace Zimmer (St) 58.935; 3. Danielle Snow-Mamie Thrall (St) 58.542; 4. Sonia Moran-Minna Thrall (St) 57.511.
Long — 1. Bridgette Fink-Nicole Wothe (Ed) 63.065; 4. Grace Gualtieri-Sami Sonnee (St) 60.701.
Extended — 1. Haley Ruegemer-Amanda Urke (Way) 71.450; 4. Katie Koenning-Mariah Smith (St) 64.815; 6. Claire Haws-Vessa Pearsall (St) 64.142; 7. Elise Adrian-Emily Adrian (St) 63.963.
Short — 1. Sonia Moran-Danielle Snow-Mamie Thrall (St) 59.628; 2. Kaitlyn Burgess-Sophie Ogaard-Grace Zimmer (St) 59.628; 6. Hannah Harvieux-Anna Koenning-Minna Thrall (St) 56.555.
Long — 1. Lydia Boike-Mara Halvorson-Gillian Mangan (Way) 62.652; 7. Mikaela Ackerson-Paige Green-Grace Gualtieri (St) 59.651.
Extended — 1. Colleen Donlin-Lucy Liu-Ruth Schaefer (Way) 68.356; 2. Katie Koenning-Skyler Olson-Vessa Pearsall (St) 64.711; 3. Elise Adrian-Emily Adrian-Claire Haws (St) 64.565.
Short — 1. Wayzata, 60.339; 2. Stillwater (Kaitlyn Burgess, Anna Koenning, Sonia Moran, Sophie Ogaard, Danielle Snow, Mamie Thrall, Minna Thrall and Grace Zimmer) 60.052; 9. Stillwater (Amanda Connor, Meara Kelly, Lauren Knuteson, Morgan MacDonald, Cynthia Silva, Isabel Solheim and Elliana Sherman) 54.652.
Long — 1. Wayzata, 60.999; 4. Stillwater (Mikaela Ackerson, Paige Green, Grace Gualtieri and Marietta Johns) 59.635.
Extended — 1. Wayzata, 70.067; 2. Stillwater (Elise Adrian, Emily Adrian, Sophie Barnes, Claire Haws, Katie Koenning, Skyler Olson, Vessa Pearsall and Mariah Smith) 67.316.