By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Nobody really expected the Stillwater High School girls swimming team to compete for a state title — nobody other than the handful of members on the team.
And while the Lady Pioneers couldn’t come up with their first state title in 14 years, they definitely made a statement Saturday in Jenks by bringing home their second straight runner-up trophy after finishing second behind Fort Gibson with 260 points.
“We were seeded third behind Bixby, but the girls really stepped up in their relays,” Stillwater coach Kurt Goebel said. “They won the relays last year and won it again. I think the girls were proud of themselves and they got up and got after it.”
“I thought it was really cool,” Stillwater senior Sydney Goad said. “We were hoping for first, but getting second with six girls to their 12 was a pretty good deal.”
Stillwater’s relay teams won two state championships, edging Fort Gibson in the 200-meter medley and the 400-meter freestyle relays.
“It felt good to beat them because they had more people than us,” Goad said. “If we would have had the same amount of people that they did we probably would have beat them.”
The Stillwater girls were far from the only surprises of the meet. Several Stillwater boys were battling flu-like symptoms, putting a top 10 finish in Class 6A in jeopardy.
Instead, younger swimmers such as Matthew Tree and Charles Clark stepped up to carry the load, helping the Pioneers finish eighth with 106 points.
“We had a lot of sickness and flu, so they didn’t quite perform to the level that we we’re hoping,” Goebel said. “We had some juniors perform really well. Both Matthew Tree and Charles Clark dropped time in their events. Actually we dropped time in all of our events, except for a couple of guys — and those were the guys that were fighting illnesses. It was a little bit of a disappointment, but at the end of the meet they started coming back around and took fifth in the 400-meter relay when they were seeded eighth.”
Clark finished fifth in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 56.59 seconds and was a member of the 200-meter medley relay team that finished 10th. Tree finished 12th in the 200-meter relay with a time of 2:09.28 and was 13th in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 59.95 seconds.
The Stillwater boys may have had a few more swimmers than the Lady Pioneers and may have competed in a different class, but both teams showed that they are loaded with young talent — talent that will return next season.
“We’ve got a lot of talent,” Goebel said. “We’re going to lose some seniors but we’ve got some younger kids that we’ll be able to fill those spots. Even if the girls would have competed in Class 6A, they still would have placed. That bodes well for our program and what we’re trying to do because we don’t know whether we’ll be in 5A or 6A next year.”
They may not have taken home the trophy, but for two teams nobody expected to compete for a state title, both squads showed it takes more than skill to be a state champion.
“It really speaks to the volume of their character,” Goebel said. “The boys could have said, ‘We’ve got some guys who are sick and we’re not going to be able to compete.’ The girls could have said, ‘Fort Gibson has twice as many girls as we have. We can’t compete with them.’ But both teams went out there and gave it everything they had and that’s what’s most important. They didn’t give up. They fought all the way to the end.”