There’s something about the way the Riverview High freshman Colleen Brasacchio swims and executes her moves that is slightly off.
Her long legs draw attention with every movement and her inability to fully lock her knees makes routines with quick and sharp movements all the more challenging.
With an artistic mindset, Brasacchio moves to the beat of the music rather than moving in exact counts without hesitation.
She is just different.
Her older sister, Gracie Brasacchio matches well with others — the faster and more complicated the movements the better.
Yet somehow, in the water, after years of precise practice, the two sisters have found themselves perfectly in tune.
With each beat of the music, the two sisters dance and twirl across the pool in a flurry of hybrids, or upside down leg movements, and egg beaters, in which the girls circle their legs in opposite directions underwater to create stabilization while performing arm movements in the air.
For three minutes, nine seconds, Gracie, a junior at Riverview, and Colleen are perfectly synchronized. Moving to the beat of the music, which is a combination of Meghan Trainor songs, including "Lips Are Movin," All About That Bass" and "Dear Future Husband," Gracie and Colleen are completely focused on their movements.
“A lot of people associate synchronized swimming with flower caps and spins in the water,” Gracie said. “It’s called ballet in the water, but there’s much more to it. I think it’s more like cheerleading in the water than ballet.”
The Brasacchio sisters have been swimming for the Sarasota Synchronized Sharks, formerly Sarasota Aquatics Synchronized Swimming at the YMCA, for the past 10 years.
Following in the footsteps of her older sister, Ann Marie Brasacchio, now a senior synchronized swimmer at Wheaton College, in Massachusetts, Gracie joined the synchronized swimming team right before her eighth birthday.
Colleen, who was 5 at the time, was ready to follow suit, only she wasn’t quite old enough.
“I told her she couldn’t be on team until she was 6,” coach Erin Bacon said. “I didn’t necessarily mean that day. That’s probably my top favorite story of Colleen.”
Colleen counted down the days and on the day of her sixth birthday, she showed up at the pool ready with all her equipment.
Gracie, who had spent ample time watching Ann Marie perform in the family pool and at synchronized swimming meets, wasn’t prepared early on for how difficult the sport would be.
“I wasn’t used to swimming actual laps,” Gracie said. “I didn’t know what freestyle was at the time.”
Her younger sister didn’t fare much better.
“I used to mermaid swim,” Colleen said. “I would just kick my feet and bounce along in the water.”
At 6 years old, Colleen was stubborn and thought she knew everything — which is why she thought it would be acceptable to perform synchronized swimming without a nose clip.
“That was our first major struggle,” Bacon said.
Over time, with help from their older sister, the girls learned how to swim properly for synchronized swimming. They learned how to hold their breath for nearly a minute and mastered the art of hybrids and egg beaters.
“I love how synchronized swimming is both athletic and artistic,” Ann Marie said. “It takes a lot of strength and endurance to be able to swim a full routine, but synchronized swimmers also need a sense of artistry to interpret and swim to their music.”
The Brasacchio sisters began competing when they were in the 10-and-under division and have competed every year since. During the synchronized swimming season, the girls compete in five meets a year, including the national competition in June if they qualify.
“Throughout the season, their routines are always changing, as you meld in their new talents,” Bacon said. “You want to make them look good, but you don’t want to make it so hard that you’re making them suffer.”
Over the years, the Brasacchios have competed in everything from solos to team competitions, but the routines they’ve been able to do together, such as a trio to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” stand out in their minds.
Gracie and Colleen have competed in a combined five national competitions and are hoping to make it back again this season both as soloists and for their duet.
“It’s an opportunity to show the best that you can swim,” Colleen said. “You get to wear pretty suits and makeup and show how hard you’ve been working.”
This season is the first time Gracie, who is Sarasota Synchronized Sharks’ only 18/19 swimmer, isn’t competing in team competition.
There was a point when Gracie wasn’t sure if she was going to return for another season. Then, she reflected on her memories, like the time last season when a competition fell the day after prom, and people across the pool deck kept coming up to her and telling her how pretty she looked based off pictures they had seen on Facebook.
“I just couldn’t give it up,” Gracie said. “It’s a whole other community."
The two sisters, who have a duet together this year in addition to their solo routines, practice three days a week in the water for a total of eight hours. Additionally, the girls do land drills, where they practice their routine to music on land, and weight training.
In addition to their routines, the girls also are required to perform figures, which are done solo in front of a panel of three to five judges. There are eight synchronized swimming figures, which are a series of body positions, the majority of which involve slow, upside-down leg movements, that every synchronized swimmer is required to know.
Swimmers egg beater out into the pool and perform four of the eight figures: two compulsory figures and two additional figures that change from meet to meet. Each figured is scored on an individual basis.
This weekend, Gracie and Colleen will travel to the University of Florida to watch Ann Marie close out her collegiate synchronized swimming career at the U.S. Collegiate Nationals from March 24 through March 26.
“We’ve never seen any of her college meets before, so we’re lucky that her last meet is in Florida,” said Gracie, who also will volunteer at the meet with her younger sister. “I think it’s going to be really cool to see the difference between our meets and theirs.”
Following the U.S. Collegiate Nationals, Gracie and Colleen will return to the pool in preparation for their next meet, which will be held in April. From there, the two sisters will prepare to close out the season — hopefully at the national meet at the end of June.
Colleen has three years remaining in her high school swimming career while Gracie already has started coming to terms with the possibility that she may only have one more season in the pool. Gracie would like to swim in college, but it all depends on where she goes to school and whether or not it has a synchronized swimming team.
Either way, the girls have gained insight into how the mind works and lessons that they can apply to other aspects of every day life.
"It's a fun sport," Bacon said. "It's a life changer. They're experiencing life-long situations, and hopefully they'll be able to take something with them that they'll remember."