MINNEAPOLIS — The Stillwater girls’ swimming and diving team continued its consistent run of success while placing second in Saturday’s Class AA True Team State Meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
The Ponies totaled 2,052.5 points to place second behind Wayzata (2,342) in the 12-team field. Eden Prairie placed more than 200 points behind Stillwater in third place with 1,834 points, followed closely in the top five by Minnetonka (1,804) and Edina (1,803).
This marks the 10th time in as many years the Ponies have finished among the top three at this popular event. Stillwater finished third a year ago and was also second in 2010 to go along with the program’s seven first-place showings.
“Well, to quote Tony the Tiger, that was great,” said Ponies coach Brian Luke, who was among the group of coaches who helped create this event in swimming. “We pick an Athlete of the Week and it picking it this time wasn’t about who had a lifetime best, it was who had the most lifetime bests. It was fun to watch and it was a 100 percent step up to the plate jumping way into that thing. That was a fun two-and-a-half hours, I tell you what.”
Based on section times (not including diving scores) the Ponies entered the meet in third place on paper, but showed improvement across the board while distancing themselves from everyone except the pre-meet favorite Trojans.
“We went in it and it was pretty close between second, third, fourth and fifth and going in we were third, but we ended up significantly in second,” Luke said. “Wayzata was certainly out there and between Stillwater Wayzata we had the best overall meet because they were gaining points and we were gaining points. The differential between them and us stayed pretty similar and the others weren’t doing the same level of improvement, so it worked out in our favor.”
Sophia Bisch provided the lone victory for the Ponies while winning the 200 individual medley for the second year in a row, finishing in a time of 2:06.32. Stillwater showed a nice mix of strength up front — placing its top finisher among the top four in nine of 12 events — and also depth while scoring just two entries outside of the top 30 (out of 48 competitors in each event).
“That’s the key when going four deep,” Luke said. “The third and fourth people are hugely valuable. Wayzata won a lot of events, but the third and fourth people are the ones make the difference in my opinion, which is the concept of putting the team down there. It’s not a smattering of people, but the whole group.”
The Ponies placed all four swimmers among the top 15 in the 500 freestyle, led by Kylie Burgess (5:02.17) and Mary Knaak (5:09.27) in second and fifth place. Shenyn Gale and Sophie Barnes also contributed strong efforts while placing 11th and 15th in the event. Burgess (1:54.46) and Knaak (1:54.92) also placed fourth and sixth in the 200 freestyle.
Bisch added a second-place finish in the 100 breastroke with a time of 1:05.84 and Kristin Erf followed in fifth (1:06.30) to give the Ponies a strong 1-2 punch in the 100 breastroke. Erf also placed third (57.25) to lead a strong performance for the Ponies in the 100 butterfly, where all four Ponies finished 17th or better.
Abby Kunze moved into third place on Stillwater’s all-time list in the 100 backstroke while placing third with a time of 58.34 and Ava Howard was not far behind in sixth place with a time of 59.46.
Even the sprints were crisp on Saturday, led by Ava Howard’s 11th-place finish in the 50 freestyle and sister Alex Howard’s 13th-place finish in the 100 freestyle. All four of Stillwater’s entries placed among the top 20 in the 50 free and the Ponies landed three in the top 18 in the 100 free.
“(Lauren) Quickel and (Abby) Doeksen were in the 25s for the first time in their lives (in the 50),” Luke said. “What I thought going in would be one of our weaker events turned out to be one our betters ones because all four had lifetime bests.”
Liz Click got off to a sluggish start, but climbed up to third in diving with a score of 413.25.
Led by a third-place finish from Kunze, Bisch, Erf and Ava Howard, Stillwater opened the meet with strong times in the 200 medley relay and didn’t slow down until the meet concluded.
“All year our goal is to get four medleys under two minutes and there we did. That gained quite a few (points),” Luke said. “Every event gained, the 200 (freestyle) people, the sprinters, everybody.”
And Stillwater closed strong with its top two teams placing among the top 10 in the 400 freestyle relay.
“So far, every time we’ve gone over to that meet the kids have managed to step it up a level and each year you walk away saying that was great, whether they got first, second or third,” Luke said. “They are always gaining 200 to 300 points each time and swimming and diving very well. Every year you walk away saying that was great, which is good because I think the kids develop confidence that they can go down there and swim well, which is half the battle.
“It was great fun.”
1. Wayzata 2,342; 2. Stillwater 2,052.5; 3. Eden Prairie 1,834; 4. Minnetonka 1,804; 5. Edina 1,803.5; 6. Mounds View 1,600; 7. Centennial 1,487.5; 8. Rosemount 1,382.5; 9. St. Michael-Albertville 931; 10. Prior Lake 918; 11. Farmington 822; 12. Blaine 637.
200 medley relay — *1. Edina A, 1:45.94; 3. Stillwater A (Abby Kunze, Sophia Bisch, Kristin Erf and Ava Howard) 1:47.58; 12. Stillwater B (Alex Howard, Tiffany Vang, Asia Neuman and Abby Doeksen) 1:53.95; 26. Stillwater C (Lily Mayek, Megan Weaver, Lauren Quickel and Kelsey Erf) 1:58.37; 30. Stillwater D (Megan Letkeman, Margaret Eisenbrandt, Hannah Keller and Olivia Bloomquist) 1:59.17.
200 freestyle — 1. Isabel Wyer (Min) 1:53.04; 4. Kylie Burgess (St) 1:54.46; 6. Mary Knaak (St) 1:54.92; 19. Shenyn Gale (St) 2:00.24; 20. Kate Gallagher (St) 2:00.46.
200 individual medley — 1. Sophia Bisch (St) 2:06.32; 13. Abby Kunze (St) 2:13.25; 18. Megan Letkeman (St) 2:15.71; 22. Sophie Barnes (St) 2:17.48.
50 freestyle — 1. Colleen Donlin (Way) 23.73; 11. Ava Howard (St) 24.85; 14. Asia Neuman (St) 25.25; 18. Abby Doeksen (St) 25.85; 20. Lauren Quickel (St) 25.94.
Diving — 1. Nicole Fontaine (Way) 415.20; 3. Liz Click (St) 413.25; 26. Madeline Gilbert (St) 119.70; 27. Madeline Hafner (St) 112.05; 31. Grace Donner (St) 108.35.
100 butterfly — 1. Bre Thorne (EP) 56.68; 3. Kristin Erf (St) 57.25; 9. Asia Neuman (St) 59.71; 16. Lauren Quickel (St) 1:01.05; 17. Tiffany Vang (St) 1:01.30.
100 freestyle — 1. Rachel Wittmer (Ed) 51.74; 13. Alex Howard (St) 55.28; 16. Kate Gallagher (St) 55.63; 18. Abby Doeksen (St) 56.22; 33. Kelsey Erf (St) 58.48.
500 freestyle — 1. Katie Garrity (Ros) 5:00.63; 2. Kylie Burgess (St) 5:02.17; 5. Mary Knaak (St) 5:09.27; 11. Shenyn Gale (St) 5:19.31; 15. Sophie Barnes (St) 5:22.53.
200 freestyle relay — *1. Wayzata A, 1:36.14; 2. Stillwater A (Sophia Bisch, Kristin Erf, Ava Howard and Kylie Burgess) 1:37.46; 14. Stillwater B (Mary Knaak, Sophia Barnes, Shenyn Gale and Tiffany Vang) 1:43.10; 17. Stillwater C (Robyn Doughty, Kate Gallagher, Kelsey Erf and Lauren Quickel) 1:45.25; 24. Stillwater D (Anne Campbell, Lily Nickeson-Ranum, Lily Mayek and Olivia Bloomquist) 1:47.61.
100 backstroke — 1. Carly Quast (Way) 56.86; 3. Abby Kunze (St) 58.43; 6. Ava Howard (St) 59.46; 23. Alex Howard (St) 1:02.62; 25. Lily Mayek (St) 1:03.15.
100 breastroke — *1. Olivia Anderson (Ed) 1:03.28; 2. Sophia Bisch (St) 1:05.84; 5. Kristin Erf (St) 1:06.30; 17. Tiffany Vang (St) 1:09.92; 27. Megan Weaver (St) 1:12.95.
400 freestyle relay — 1. Wayzata A, 3:30.49; 5. Stillwater A (Asia Neuman, Mary Knaak, Kate Gallagher and Kylie Burgess) 3:38.41; 10. Stillwater B (Alex Howard, Abby Doeksen, Abby Kunze and Sophie Barnes) 3:44.50; 20. Stillwater D (Olivia Bloomquist, Lily Nickeson-Ranum, Robyn Doughty and Anne Campbell) 3:51.93; 21. Stillwater C (Lily Mayek, Shenyn Gale, Megan Letkeman and Kelsey Erf) 3:52.50.
* Meet record