Swim club synchronizes efforts

The club doesn’t get the benefits it would if it were considered a varsity team.

by Jamie VanGeest

The lights hanging from the ceiling reflected on the women’s swim caps.

Dripping wet, they took in a deep breath as if it were their last and disappeared underwater. Suddenly they emerged and launched a teammate high into the air above the pool in Cooke Hall.

Since the 1940s, the University Synchronized Swimming Club has been a hardworking organized sport, competing and winning at a varsity level.

Some members of the club team have been synchronized swimming for more than a decade.

Caitlin Rooney, a chemistry and biology senior, has had a passion for the sport since she watched it during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

“I have always been a water baby,” she said.

This is fellow teammate Maggie Neck’s third year on the University’s team and her 13th year as a synchronized swimmer.

Neck, a junior communications student, was given the choice between competitive swimming and synchronized swimming in the third grade.

“I like how (synchronized swimming) provides the best aspects of different sports into one,” Neck said, “like gymnastics, swimming and dance.”

Coach Sarah Nelson was a member of the University’s team from 1998 to 2001 and became head coach of the A-squad three years ago.

“Sarah is one of those people who tells us what needs to be done,” said Ann Dienhart, a civil engineering sophomore. “She may be a little blunt, but that is what we need.”

Nelson said that in competition, synchronized swimming is judged just like figure skating ” for technical merit and artistic expression.

Many varsity teams around the nation hire coaches for choreography, but Nelson said the University’s team choreographs its own routines.

Coaches and team members pick a theme each year and design their choreography around it. Last year, Neck said, the team did a dance routine to Janet Jackson songs; this year, they’re taking a risk.

The theme is “Romeo and Juliet,” and the choreography is different. This year, team members are portraying roles, Nelson said.

During certain parts of the routine, the swimmers are split in two groups as the battling Montague and Capulet families. At other times, two swimmers are solo representing Romeo and Juliet.

“We have a strong-swimming team so we wanted powerful music to match,” Dienhart said.

Every routine has the basic elements of throws, where the whole team is underwater and a swimmer is thrown into the air. The team also does lifts, Nelson said.

Because the team is considered a club team at the University, it doesn’t get the benefits that it would if it were considered a varsity team. Members have to pay for their uniforms, pool time, lifeguards for practice and travel expenses when attending competitions, she said.

The swimmers pay out-of-pocket for many of the expenses, but to make up the difference they sometimes clean up the Sports Pavilion after varsity sports events, she said.

In February, the team will host a synchronized swimming invitational at the University. It will travel to Ohio for regional finals and to Stanford University in California for nationals.