A grueling routine and precise acrobatics, all done without breathing

Tory Ahmann recently took 9th at a national synchronized swimming meet.

Nicolas Hallett

YouâÄôve just sprinted a mile, now jump in a pool and submerge your head for a couple minutes.

Sound difficult?

YouâÄôre not done. Head still underwater, begin to perform spins and twirls with the utmost precision, all while coordinating with your teammates and being critiqued on the most minute of details by 10 judges.

This is the life of a synchronized swimmer.

Minnesota sophomore Tory Ahmann finished 9th overall March 18 in the womenâÄôs solo routine category at the 2011 Synchronized Swimming Collegiate National Championships in Tonawanda, New York.

Ahmann also competed as a member of the Minnesota synchronized swimming club team, though the team was unable to advance past regionals.

Comparable to figure skating underwater, the sport also known as âÄúsynchroâÄù isnâÄôt particularly well-known. Public knowledge is based on stereotypes and minimal pop-culture exposure: âÄúSynchronized swimmingâÄù often conjures images of black-and-white films with old ladies in hair nets dancing in waist high water. This is not the case.

The real thing demands advanced swimming skills, great strength and precise timing; touching the pool floor is an automatic 2-point penalty; and essentially everything is done underwater.

âÄúItâÄôs very demanding,âÄù Ahmann said. âÄúItâÄôs like doing an intense cardio workout without being able to breathe.âÄù

If that wasnâÄôt enough, every twitch is judged. Scoring is based on two categories: artistic and technical. Each category has a panel consisting of five judges grading on a 1-10 scale, which is then combined for a score out of a possible 100.

To train for this pool-based event, Ahmann and her teammates practice three times a week year-round. They also work outside the pool in land drills, or âÄúdeckingâÄù.

âÄúIn land drills we have to do arm movements that represent our legs,âÄù said Ahmann. âÄúWe use this to learn our routines as well as the counts to all the music.âÄù

As a sophomore, Ahmann has time to improve on an already lofty achievement, but in terms of overtaking the likes of a varsity program like Ohio State, home to this yearâÄôs national champion Yuliya Maryanko, she remains reserved in expectations.

âÄúI would definitely love to improve and I hope to do so.âÄù Ahmann said. âÄúThe varsity programs have a lot more resources than we do, so I like to compare myself to them but donâÄôt feel the need to beat them. However, I would like to finish ahead of the other club schools such as Gator Synchro and Wheaton [College].âÄù

Ahmann, an Eden Prairie native, is also a certified synchronized swimming judge at the high school level and sees it as something she will continue to be involved with after college.

âÄúItâÄôs a community,âÄù Ahmann said. âÄúI really love the sport, coaching and judging.âÄù