The girls’ True Team swimming and diving state meet shows no signs of slowing down, but neither does Stillwater coach Brian Luke and his team of athletes who will compete in the event’s 10th edition on Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis. The Ponies have won seven True Team state titles in the previous nine years to go along with a runner-up showing in 2010 and a third-place finish last fall.
The Ponies are hoping to contend for a spot in the top three again this year at an event Luke had a hand in creating through the sport’s coaches association more than a decade ago.
“That’s one of the things I’m proud of that we did get this off the ground and it’s still going,” Luke said. “It’s grown, incrementally, but at least it’s growing.”
The Ponies held off Centennial by 52 points at the section meet on Saturday, but the Cougars qualified for state via the wildcard. The other section champions to earn a spot in the state field are Farmington, Prior Lake, Rosemount, Wayzata, Eden Prairie, Blaine and St. Michael-Albertville, with Edina, Minnetonka and Mounds View also grabbing one of the four available wild card entries.
Based on performances at sections, Wayzata appears to be a favorite for this year’s title after finishing second behind Minnetonka a year ago. Eden Prairie looks like strong contender as well, followed closely by Stillwater, Minnetonka and Edina as teams expected to battle for a spot in the top three. Centennial could also be in the mix..
“We have a legitimate shot at top three, that’s what we’re going to try and get,” Luke said. “The key is to get there and swim and dive to the best of our abilities. You should see a pretty competitive meet, but I’m not predicting anything because you really don’t know.”
Stillwater’s team isn’t as large as some recent years, but the Ponies have a nice mix of athletes who can compete with the state’s fastest and those providing depth and, perhaps, the key to a top-three showing.
“There’s 48 people in every event and since everybody scores I think the meet is kind of decided by the third and fourth person,” Luke said. “Your first person doesn’t have a whole lot of places to move. If they’re seeded third or fourth you can’t go up too many spots, but if a kid is (seeded) 17th or 20th or 22nd and they improve they can move up six or seven spots.
“The C and D relays can also make the biggest moves. If your D relay goes two seconds faster you can jump by six or eight teams, but if your A relay goes a second faster it might go up one spot. That’s been our strength in the past is our third and fourth people tend to be up there pretty good. A team might get one ahead of ours, but our others will be in front of theirs.”
One of the primary objectives in creating the True Team format — which was modeled after a similar event started by the state’s track and field coaches years earlier — is increasing participation numbers.
“Nobody is unimportant when everybody scores,” Luke said. “One of the reasons — not the only one, but it is one — that we’ve carried large numbers is that internal competition motivates everybody to do better.”
And while the Ponies (8-0 SEC, 10-0) have already wrapped up at least a share of the Suburban East Conference title and are well on their way to yet another successful season, they are hoping for another memorable performance at this popular event.
“There hasn’t really been a meet where they’ve been ‘wow’, nothing where you just went wow,” Luke said. “Hopefully this is the wow one.”
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at [email protected]
True Team State