Forget the flower caps — the CSU synchronized swimming team beats the stereotype.
“A lot of people don’t take it seriously,” said Emily LaPlante, food sciences and nutrition freshman. “I’ve been asked the question, ‘If one swimmer drowns, do they all drown?’ like fifty times.”
LaPlante, who has also performed as a mermaid at the Denver Aquarium, started synchronized swimming when she was eight and has been on the CSU team since August.
“I like how it’s different and really unique,” LaPlante said. “I get really bored with just lap swimming.”
LaPlante likes the competition and the performance of the sport, but hates the stereotypes that people have about it.
“They think about the stereotypical flower caps, and don’t think it’s a real sport,” LaPlante. “The people that do know what it is are really impressed.”
McKenna Casey, senior health and exercise major, said that the sport is harder than any she has ever done.
According to Casey, breathing is the biggest challenge. The best way to compare it, said Casey, is to run a lap around the track holding your breath on the straights and only breathe on the curves. To practice, the team swims the entire 25 meters of the pool without stopping.
Casey has been swimming on the CSU synchro team for four years and is president of the club. She did speed swimming in high school and only started synchro when she came to CSU.
“It’s ballet, cheer and gymnastics meets swimming,” Casey said. “And those are all the sports I quit. Apparently, if you put it in the water, I like it.”
Savannah Thomas, human development and family studies sophomore, started swimming synchro when she was 11 years old, and has been swimming on and off since then.
“I just love swimming, but I don’t care about being fast,” Thomas said. “I like the rhythmic dancing.”
It’s all about the precision, endurance and gracefulness, according to Thomas. To get there, there are many little warm-ups and stretches to put it all together.
The team of nine develop their own solo, trio and group routines in September and practice them until they’re mastered in February. They spend ten to 15 hours a week practicing routines in and out of the water.
Early in February, CSU hosted the synchronized swimming invitational, which brought four olympic swimmers from Lindenwood University’s Division 1 team in Missouri to compete with the CSU team.
“It was mind-numbingly cool. It’s like an odd combination of starstruck and terrified to swim and compete against them,” Casey said.
Casey compared the experience to meeting Michael Jordan and immediately asking him to play one-on-one.
“What’s so shocking is that they’re so friendly, and so personable. And then you see the little Olympic tattoo on their back, and you’re like ‘Oh my god!’” said Allison Reser, junior ecosystem science and sustainability major.
During the home meet, the CSU synchronized swimmers had a duet place second and a trio place third. The team placed third overall.
Reser just started swimming synchro when she came to CSU, but encourages all who like to swim to come.
She had to learn a routine for national championships two weeks before the performance. On the day of, the music stopped halfway through, but the girls kept swimming.
“We build on each other. You start out doing easy things not looking very graceful, and the gracefulness comes,” LaPlante said.
Collegian Features Beat Reporter Hannah Hemperly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.