The Stillwater girls swim and dive team hasn’t lost a dual meet in more than a decade.
Last week, Stillwater’s Coach Brian Luke set the state record when the Ponies captured their 125th consecutive win — dating back to 2003 — defeating East Ridge.
The previous record was held by Luke’s 89-year-old father, Elmer, who coached at Hopkins from the late 1970s to early 1990s.
Here’s a recap of the record-breaking meet from Stillwater Area Public Schools:
Many swimmers and divers from Luke’s past teams came to Thursday’s meet (Sept. 17) to watch history in the making and to thank their former coach. They said he was a strict coach, who instilled obedience and determination in his swimmers.
“It didn’t matter if you were the varsity star or record holder or you were the slowest kid in JV everybody had the same expectations,” said Abby Huot (Class of 2000).
“That served me through every sport, through life in general,” Sarah (Vansgard) Burbach (Class of 2006) added. “Hated it at the time, but boy did that pay off.”
Huot agreed, saying Luke’s coaching went beyond the pool. “His teachings and his wisdom I genuinely carry with me and use every single day.”
Luke said he was touched to see so many of his former swimmers in the stands – some from the early 80s.
“That was kind of cool. It was just kind of fun to see them and know that they kind of still care what’s going on,” said Luke. “I got a little choked up when I saw them all holding 125 signs.”
Luke started coaching for Stillwater in 1975. It took 21 years before the team won its first section title. Since then they’ve won four Minnesota State High School League championships and seven True Team titles.
Luke attributes the team’s success to great athletes. But his swimmers say it’s Luke who brings out the best in them.
“If you didn’t think you could do it he had the confidence in you that you could,” said Lindsay (Hill) Olson (Class of 2001). “There were a lot of times that he taught me to just push myself beyond what I thought I could do because he knew I had it in me.”
Senior captain Abby Kunze said, “He likes to credit it to the athletes who come through, but it’s definitely his coaching. He gets 60-70 people or more than that back every year so he’s obviously doing something right.”
Luke appreciates that his experience coaching has been a family affair. Not only is Luke’s dad, Elmer, often on deck as a volunteer coach at Stillwater. His wife is also instrumental with the team. “My wife has been very supportive. She announces the meets and she does a lot of the behind the scenes stuff,” he said. “My children luckily all swam for me up through the years so I got to spend time with them doing that.”
So what’s next for Luke?
“Just keep going,” he said. “Either my career’s going to end or the streak’s going to end. One of those eventually. For right now we’ll just keep going.”
Here’s a gallery of photos from the meet.
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