In addition to its 12th consecutive Section 4AA championship, Stillwater’s reward for a strong showing in Saturday’s finals at Stillwater Junior High School will be a full slate of entries into next week’s Class AA state meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
The Ponies finished first in 10 of 12 events to easily outdistance runner-up Centennial 616-484 in the eight-team field. St. Paul Central was a distant third with 249 points.
There were 34 state bids awarded on Saturday and Stillwater nabbed 17 of them. State qualifiers included the top two finishers in each swimming event and any others who achieve the state cut-off time. The top four divers gain entry to the state meet, which will be held on Nov. 18-20.
Stillwater finished 1-2 in six of the eight individual swimming events and also swept the three relays. Liz Click also defended her section championship in diving to earn another trip to state with a winning score of 408.0.
“Just getting first and second in numerous events was pretty fun,” Ponies coach Brian Luke said. “This meet is getting way faster and there’s numerous events where people qualified on times. You have some events where you have four or five kids qualifying because of times so this section is getting way more competitive.”
Centennial also finished second to the Ponies a year ago and it appeared this year’s results might be closer, but Stillwater turned it on in the finals to pull away for another comfortable victory.
“Going into the swimmers finals part we had about a 50-point lead on paper and then after diving it went up to about 75 or so,” Luke said.
Stillwater’s final margin of victory was 132 points.
“That was all gained in the swimming finals, so they stepped it up pretty good,” Luke said. “The finals, I thought, went real well. The prelims we did have a few kids miss the championship heat. One of our goals was to get everybody in the championship heat so we missed that, but they came back on Saturday and spread out the gap between us and Centennial pretty wide. It was fun to watch on Saturday.”
The Ponies set a meet record in the opening event in the finals as Abby Kunze, Sophia Bisch, Kristin Erf and Ava Howard finished first in a time of 1:47.75. Kylie Burgess (1:54.91) and Mary Knaak (1:55.48) followed with a 1-2 finish in the 200 freestyle and Bisch placed second in the 200 individual medley (2:07.37), just one one-hundredth of a second behind Centennial’s Tara Chapman (2:07.36). The IM and the 100 freestyle were the only individual swimming events Stillwater did not sweep the top two places.
Seventh-grader Asia Neuman made a big splash in her first section meet while winning the 50 freestyle in 24.48. Teammate Ava Howard was not far behind in a time of 24.59.
“Asia Neuman there, she just took off from the blocks and had a really good start, which is the key to that race,” Luke said. “She was never behind, which is a good way to swim that race. Ava had to come from behind a little more, but she really moved it out there.”
Neuman was seeded fourth after posting a time of 25.12 in Thursday’s prelims.
“Asia winning was probably the biggest surprise because you wouldn’t predict a seventh grader would win the 50,” Luke said. “Usually the younger swimmers are better in the longer races, but the short events they’re not as apt to win.”
Erf (57.79) and Neuman (59.27) also finished first and second in the 100 butterfly while Burgess (5:03.31) and Knaak (5:10.41) occupied the top two spots in the 500 freestyle race.
Stillwater cruised to a victory in the 200 freestyle relay with Bisch, Erf, Neuman and Burgess finishing in 1:37.86 and the Ponies closed out the meet with Neuman, Knaak, Burgess and Ava Howard (3:35.12) eclipsing Centennial by nearly three seconds to win the 400 freestyle relay.
In between, Ava Howard (58.26) and Kunze (58.29) finished 1-2 in the 100 backstroke while Bisch (1:05.97) and Erf (1:06.28) posted the fastest times in the 100 breastroke.
“Some of the newer kids in the meet for the first time did well,” Luke said. “(Shenyn) Gale, (Laura) Ortmann, (Lily) Mayek, Neuman, Alex Howard and (Abby) Doeksen, a lot of them were in the meet for the first time, which is a bit overwhelming and maybe in the prelims were getting used to that, but then in the finals they settled down. Most of them are underclassmen so they will be back. That part was good, and our depth came through.”
In addition to Click’s victory, Madeline Gilbert (248.55) and Madeline Hafner (245.70) placed seventh and eighth for the Ponies in diving.
“The divers did good, too,” Luke said. “All four made the finals.”
1. Stillwater 616; 2. Centennial 484; 3. St. Paul Central 249; 4. Roseville 197; 5. Tartan 193; 6. White Bear Lake 158; 7. North St. Paul 140; 8. St. Paul Harding 44.
200 medley relay — *#1. Stillwater (Abby Kunze, Sophia Bisch, Kristin Erf and Ava Howard) 1:47.75; *2. Centennial, 1:49.37.
200 freestyle — *1. Kylie Burgess (St) 1:54.91; *2. Mary Knaak (St) 1:55.48; *3. Erin Kennedy (SPC) 1:55.68; *4. Mira Schroeder (Cen) 1:56.07; 8. Kate Gallagher (St) 2:02.27; 9. Shenyn Gale (St) 2:01.53.
200 individual medley — *1. Tara Chapman (Cen) 2:07.36; *2. Sophia Bisch (St) 2:07.37; 4. Abby Kunze (St) 2:12.90; 6. Megan Letkeman (St) 2:16.71; 9. Sophia Barnes (St) 2:16.14.
50 freestyle — *1. Asia Neuman (St) 24.48; *2. Ava Howard (St) 24.59; *3. Kate Nelson (SPC) 24.62; 9. Lauren Quickel (St) 25.91; 11. Abby Doeksen (St) 26.24.
Diving — *1. Liz Click (St) 408.0; *2. Michelle Schlossmacher (Ros) 381.80; *3. Sienna Lundeen (SPC) 305.10; *4. Lauren Teeters (Tar) 287.10; 7. Madeline Gilbert (St) 248.55; 8. Madeline Hafner (St) 245.70; 16. Grace Donner (St) 182.05.
100 butterfly — *1. Kristin Erf (St) 57.79; *2. Asia Neuman (St) 59.27; *3. Tia Erickson (Cen) 59.36; 6. Tiffany Vang (St) 1:01.46; 7. Lauren Quickel (St) 1:01.88.
100 freestyle — *1. Kate Nelson (SPC) 54.01; *2. Lauren Kacmarynski (Ros) 54.13; 3. Sophie Barnes (St) 54.80; 7. Kate Gallagher (St) 56.57; 9. Alex Howard (St) 55.67; 11. Abby Doeksen (St) 56.95.
500 freestyle — *1. Kylie Burgess (St) 5:03.31; *2. Mary Knaak (St) 5:10.41; *3. Mira Schroeder (Cen) 5:12.73; 5. Shenyn Gale (St) 5:23.59; 8. Laura Ortmann (St) 5:27.93.
200 freestyle relay — *1. Stillwater (Sophia Bisch, Kristin Erf, Asia Neuman and Kylie Burgess) 1:37.86; *2. Centennial, 1:39.25.
100 backstroke — *1. Ava Howard (St) 58.26; *2. Abby Kunze (St) 58.29; *3. Reghan Boldt (Cen) 58.68; *4. Abigail Schwartz (Cen) 58.97; 5. Alex Howard (St) 1:02.93; 10. Lily Mayek (St) 1:03.70.
100 breastroke — *1. Sophia Bisch (St) 1:05.97; *2. Kristin Erf (St) 1:06.28; *3. Tara Chapman (Cen) 1:06.77; 5. Tiffany Vang (St) 1:09.03; 6. Margaret Eisenbrandt (St) 1:10.76.
400 freestyle relay — *1. Stillwater (Asia Neuman, Mary Knaak, Kylie Burgess and Ava Howard) 3:35.12; *2. St. Paul Central, 3:37.94.
* state qualifier
# meet record
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at [email protected]