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Win-win situations for Ohio State, Stanford Ponkratova caps fine season for Canisius at nationals

The key isn't solely being higher, faster and stronger in the water. It's often about regrouping and staying focused. That proved one of the advantages for Stanford as the Cardinal won the team competition in U.S. Collegiate Synchronized Swimming championships on Saturday.

Ohio State took its 27th overall crown with 93 points in the three-day event at the Town of Tonawanda Aquatic Center. Stanford took second with 90 while Incarnate Word (Tex.) and Canisius were third and fourth in the high points standings.

But the team competition title was one of the goals set by Stanford. After a disappointing showing in the trio Saturday morning, the Cardinal came back in the afternoon, putting on an impressive display with 94.250 points in the team final.

"I couldn't have been more pleased with the team and how they did," Stanford coach Heather Olson said. "We've been improving all season. Our lifts were as high as they've been. The kids really did a great job of bringing themselves together. We had some mistakes this morning in one of our trios and they turned around, they got themselves fired up. We had great success in the duet event and to win team is fantastic and that's really what we wanted to accomplish."

Canisius placed sixth in the team event as the Golden Griffins offered a spirited and entertaining final swim set to Celtic music, scoring 88.625 points.

"I thought they were great. It was a total step up from yesterday," Canisius coach Jill Wright said. "We had way more energy and everything, we were higher, faster, stronger, the whole thing. I really felt like the girls rose to the occasion."

Swimming in the Canisius team event were sophomore Melissa Andrews, freshman Deanna DeSimone, junior Jessica Grogan (Orchard Park), sophomore Olivia Hanlon, freshman Morgan Lebrecht, freshman Jessica Mancini, sophomore Victoria Mintz and senior Laurie Wakelam (Kenmore West).

Meanwhile Svetlana Ponkratova took third in the solo final, scoring 90.375 points. Freshman Yuliya Maryanko of Ohio State won the event (91.625 points) followed by junior Saki Fujise of Incarnate Word (91.375).

"She was great," Wright said. "The whole year was fantastic. I couldn't have asked her to do anything more than she did. She's so high and that's really her strength. She's young and she's got three more years to just keep getting better."

It was quite the burst on the collegiate scene for Ponkratova, a native of Russia who swam on the same club as former Canisius All-American Natalia Tarasova. She had won every event leading up to the collegiate nationals and was rather pleased with her showing.

"It was so different from how I swam last year," Ponkratova said, comparing her club team to college. "I love it at Canisius. I love the new things. It's been so great and I'm so excited."

Ponkratova swam in the trio and duet competition, pairing with Mintz to finish fifth (88.250 points) while the duo teamed with Wakelam to finish sixth in the trio (87.625).

Stanford took first and third in the duet with juniors Maria Koroleva and Olivia Morgan (91.625) edging out Ohio State's Yuliya Maryanko and Michelle Theriault (91.250).

Theriault teamed with Alexandra Beckett and Deborah Shim to win the trio competition (90.500).

"I thought it was a really good meet for us," Wright said. "In every single event, we got out there and held our own. I was so proud. A lot of our freshman swam against juniors and seniors from Incarnate, Stanford, Ohio State, and they're out there doing great."