With the largest enrollment in Minnesota and an impressive athletic pedigree, Wayzata is one of those schools with teams that always seem to to be among the state’s best, regardless of sport. Low profile? No way. Wayzata does not sneak up on anyone.
Yet the most dominant program at the school is also perhaps its most anonymous. Ask the average Wayzata student which program has won the most state titles over the past decade and the odds are good that none will guess synchronized swimming. The Trojans have won six consecutive synchronized swimming — synchro, for short — state championships. They will be shooting for their seventh title at the state meet on Thursday and Friday that takes place at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
“That’s definitely something we go through,” said sophomore Amanda Urke, one of Wayzata’s top swimmers. “I’ve heard some people think it’s not a varsity sport. I’m like ‘Um, but we’ve won state six years a in row.’ You can go to Wayzata and not even have a clue.”
There are signs that may be changing. The Trojans dominated the West Section meet Saturday despite the absence of one of their top swimmers, Paige Muncy, who is out for the rest of the season because of an illness. The viewing balcony at Prior Lake’s Hidden Oaks Middle School was standing room-only for most of the meet, adding legitimacy to a sport that is constantly battling stereotypes and perceptions.
“There are so many things that people don’t understand,” senior co-captain Haley Ruegemer said. “They think we just float around or that we touch the bottom, which we don’t because you can get a huge penalty. But in reality, it takes a lot of strength, endurance and agility.”
Wayzata’s success can be traced, in large part, to two factors: the west-metro presence of the Minnesota Synchronettes, the state’s most successful club team, and a coaching staff led by Signe Hensel, whose supportive style and humble attitude keep the Trojans grounded.
“A lot of us know each other well from the Synchronettes, and we have great, awesome coaches,” said Urke. “We have young girls that work really hard and swimmers that graduated that come back to help. Everyone wants to be a part and helps each other out.”
For her part, Hensel downplays her role in the team’s prowess and six-year streak of championships.
“I’m just thankful that we have so many hard-working, motivated girls,” she said.
But she does emphasize the fleeting nature of success.
“It’s taken time to get to this position, but it’s not realistic to think we can win every year,” Hensel said. “I like to think that gives us something to aim for.”
As the Trojans’ streak grows, so does the motivation to stay on top. No one wants to be on the team that saw the streak end.
“We feel that pressure, but it’s not a bad pressure,” Urke said. “Sometimes you can be motivated because you’re working from the bottom and sometimes you can be motivated because you’re working at the top.”
While state titles have become a driving force, it’s apparent that the accompanying pressure has not consumed them. As long as they’ve done every routine, every lift, every arm movement to the best of their ability, the Trojans agree that they’ll be satisfied no matter the outcome.
“It’s intense, but every year it’s a different dynamic,” said co-captain Ruth Schaefer. “It wouldn’t ruin our season if we didn’t win state. As long as we’ve done our best, that’s all that matters.”
Giving their best seems to be an easy proposition for the Trojans. They’re putting in grueling hours, sure, but all admit that it’s more about the process than the result.
“We put a lot of time into it, and we work really hard,” Urke said. “What helps us get through it is that it’s so much fun. Most of the time we’re smiling. We couldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun.”