With Stillwater synchronized swimming, several bonds are thicker than water. There are six sets of sisters on the Ponies roster this year, including Elise and Emily Adrian.
“The team in general is one big family, and to have your true sister experiencing ups and downs with you makes the bond that much stronger,” said Elise, a senior.
Even with a powerhouse program like Stillwater’s, it’s not always smooth sailing.
“There are some moments of tension, and it is very easy to lose your temper, but overall it’s an experience I won’t forget,” Elise said. “I get very emotional every time I think about this being my last year with her by my side.”
The other Stillwater sister tandems are Katie and Anna Koenning; Mamie and Minna Thrall; Marietta and Annika Johns; Maya and Ryan Ellis; and Amanda and Sydney Connor.
“I think definitely for motivational support it helps to have a sister on the team,” Elise said. “They know when you get home what you felt like during practice that day and can really sympathize with you.”
Emily signed up for synchro one year after her sister.
“We have grown so much closer, and I get teary-eyed every time I think about it,’’ Elise said. “I will miss having her by my side. Last year was amazing having a duet with her, working together towards a common goal.”
Elise and Adrian, like many of the Ponies, swim for the club team in Stillwater to stay in shape and work on skills. Their common goal is to help Stillwater return to state and continue its unprecedented success on the state synchro circuit.
The Ponies lost just two seniors from last year’s squad, so there is optimism at the east metro powerhouse program once again this spring. Seven of their eight swimmers for the extended team event are returning this year.
Elise and Emily, along with Claire Haws, placed third at the state meet in the extended trio last spring. They were part of the extended team unit that placed second behind Wayzata.
Coach Kathy Henderson is in her second year at the helm after serving as an assistant for 19 years. The former Gophers competitor and coach is continuing the tradition of the program, which has produced 71 all-state synchronized swimmers while capturing 18 state championships in its history and never finished lower than second place at state.
“A synchronized swim team is a lot like a family because of all the hours spent together at the pool, and how closely they have to work together,” Henderson said. “But this year is truly a family affair.”
No matter the results, the familial bond will make this season a memorable one for Elise.
“This year will be one to remember,” she said.
Stillwater’s first figures meet will be held at its home pool against Osseo-Maple Grove on March 27.