Wayzata senior Madison Preiss said out of all of the swimming and diving teams her squad faces, it gets along best with Minnetonka.
That’s not to say the programs aren’t competitive.
Last month Minnetonka became the only team to beat top-ranked Wayzata in the past three years when it won the Class 2A True Team title. Four days later, Wayzata defeated Minnetonka in a dual meet.
The teams will square off starting Wednesday at the Class 2A meet, where Wayzata hopes to win its third consecutive title. Minnetonka is ranked third and also should contend, along with second-ranked Edina.
Wayzata coach Elizabeth Hansen said her team isn’t taking anything for granted.
“You have to earn it just like everybody else,” she said. “We are not entitled to anything. Every year you have to fight for it.”
It helps, however, that Wayzata returned eight of its 12 state participants from last year, including four seniors who have committed to Division I programs. Among them is Preiss, who has committed to the Gophers. She is also the reigning 200-yard individual medley champion and was part of the state-winning 200 medley relay.
Preiss swims on the Eden Prairie-based Aquajets swim team in the offseason, along with about 10 of her Wayzata teammates and about 10 Minnetonka swimmers. The club trains six days a week during its winter season and twice a day during the summer.
“We’re teammates there, and it kind of carries over,” Wayzata junior Carly Quast said. “We’re just really good friends.”
Among them is Minnetonka senior Riley Donlin, who is cousins with Wayzata senior Colleen Donlin. The two compete against each other in the 100 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay in the high school season and have posted similar times.
“I always kind of looked up to her,” said Colleen Donlin, noting that Riley started swimming before she did.
Riley Donlin and Minnetonka co-captain Sophie Levy said it felt good to finish ahead of Wayzata at the true team meet, noting the Skippers’ relative underdog status. The team finished behind Wayzata at two early-season meets and also lost a dual meet to Edina.
“A lot of people didn’t think we could do it,” Levy said. “It got us excited to kind of prove some people wrong and show what we’re made of.”
In True Team competition, every swim counts toward the overall team score, whereas only the top 16 performances in each event count at state. That gave Minnetonka a chance to showcase its depth, which coach Dan Berve called his team’s strength.
“You don’t win a meet like [that] without, up and down the board, just great performances from everybody,” he said. “That’s exactly what we had.”
For Wayzata, the meet provided a wake-up call, Hansen said, helping the team refocus on its goals. The Trojans showed that focus in a subsequent meet against Minnetonka, placing first in nine of 12 events.
“They’re just so good in the dual-meet format,” Riley Donlin said.
That’s not to say Minnetonka couldn’t overtake them at state. The Skippers returned eight of their 11 state participants from last year, including five seniors who have committed to Division I programs.
Berve said his goal for state is for as many swimmers and divers as possible to place in the top 16. The team has been focusing on execution, staying relaxed and having fun at these final meets, he said, not necessarily on beating its rivals.
“If we can have just our best meet possible and if Wayzata has their best meet possible, it doesn’t really matter who wins,” Levy said. “Those girls deserve it just as much as we do.”