Sonstegard hears championship ring

David La

Going into last season, the Minnesota women’s swimming and diving team could be described as a collection of charcoal briquettes soaked with lighter fluid.
All that was needed was a spark, which was provided by then sophomore Meghan Sonstegard.
“We were having a preseason meeting,” teammate Kim Harrod said. “We were talking about Big Tens and Meghan’s comment was, `Oh, we are so going to win Big Tens because this is so our pool.’ She was just so sure and we’re all like, `Gosh, how does she know?'”
Well, she sure knew something, because the team went on to finally extinguish 12-time Big Ten champion Michigan in February at the University Aquatic Center. With the 1999-2000 season set to begin in October, Sonstegard again sees her team as a probable favorite.
“As long as people are stepping up to that block with good attitudes — that’s really what’s going to make it because we definitely have the talent,” Sonstegard said.
And character, also provided by Sonstegard.
“She gets real excited for big meets,” said women’s swimming coach Jean Freeman. “She’s a fun one to have on relays because she’s more of an extrovert. I think as much as some people aren’t an extrovert, they like having someone’s who cheering and upbeat. On a team of any sort, you need that type of personality.”
Sonstegard has no shortage of personality, her pool runneth over. Sporting a dry land look that screams First Avenue, Sonstegard’s image belies the work ethic and ability that endear her to her teammates and coaches.
“The more I got to know her the more I realized she’s got a practical side to her,” Freeman said. “But you don’t see that right away because her dress and her appearance are more out of the norm than most people in the Midwest.”
Born in Sioux Falls, S.D., Sonstegard got her start in the Midwest, but was quickly swept along to no fewer than four high schools as she pursued excellence in swimming. One stop included The Peddie School in New Jersey, a swimming boarding school also attended by current teammate Emily Deppe.
After finishing her senior year at Apple Valley High School in Minnesota, Sonstegard somewhat reluctantly singed on with the Gophers.
“I actually never wanted to go to Minnesota for quite a long time because my father, my grandpa, and my great-grandpa went here,” Sonstegard said. “I was going to break the mold and go someplace else.”
Entering her junior season, the three-time honorable mention All-American will likely continue to excel with her freestyle stroke and freestyle demeanor.
“When you think of swimmers, you generally think of people who are only at the pool or only working out, and yeah, we all do that, but we have other lives, too,” Sonstegard said. “I go out dancing, I work at a CD Shop; I really love music.”
Whatever music she listens to, Sonstegard maintains she hears the tune of another Big Ten title this year.