As five swimmers from Team Florida gracefully pierce the still water of the Evalyn Sadlier Jones YMCA pool, the boisterous sound of swing-era horns quickly sets the mood. The women swim, in synch, to the music, combining elements of dance, gymnastics and swimming, much to the delight of the packed audience.
More than 300 athletes traveled from all over the country to perform similar routines as part of the U.S. Masters Synchronized Swimming National Championships between Wednesday, Oct. 24 and Sunday, Oct. 28. Over the course of the five-day period, more than 30 national club teams competed in solo, duet, trio and team formats.
The national competition, hosted by the Evalyn Sadlier Jones YMCA, was held in Sarasota for the first time, following a winning bid by the venue two years ago.
Executive Director Ben Pinegar says that after winning the bid in fall 2010, the YMCA began preparing for the event by refurbishing the facilities and collaborating with local chapters to advertise and promote the championship, which he says was a success.
“It went fantastically,” he said. “We heard nothing but rave reviews about our facility, and all the teams were thrilled about Sarasota. We were very pleased with the outcome.”
Athletes trained for the competition for months, preparing their music selection and choreography before hitting the pool several times a week to perfect their routines. Nikki Berlin, of Team MAC Synchro, from Portland, Ore., says her team began practicing twice a week in December to prepare and that they tried to choose unique music and choreography that hadn’t been overdone.
Jenny Amsinger and Dana Bradley, of Team Florida, have been swimming together for 18 years and say that they practice for three hours each Saturday and five hours each Sunday.
“My favorite part about synchro is probably the friendships and the team,” said Bradley. “I think most of the girls on the team have been to each other’s weddings.”
Pinegar says that hosting this event was a significant accomplishment for Sarasota and that it served as a preview for the Pan-American Masters Championships, which will be held in Sarasota in 2013. The two-week event is expected to draw more than 2,000 athletes to the area, which Pinegar says is a great opportunity for Sarasota, because this will be the first time the championship has been held in the United States.
“Hearing the athletes compliment Sarasota was awesome,” said Pinegar. “Hopefully, this puts another feather in our cap that we can host high-level events. It was great that our youth synchro team got to see synchro performed at a high level right in front of them, and I’m proud that we can help further swimming in Sarasota.”