By Nick Jacobs
Before U.S. Olympian Sara Lowe travels to Beijing to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the Stanford University senior made a cross-country trip to swim at the fourth consecutive Mary Washington Invitational last Sunday.
The meet held at Goolrick Natatorium, allowed University of Mary Washington’s synchronized swimming team, the Terrapins, to swim alongside Olympic swimmers from Stanford University and the University of the Incarnate Word.
Senior UMW co-captain Colleen O’Connor was in awe watching some of the best amateur athletes in her sport.
“When I watch the really good swimmers, they take the sport to another level,” O’Connor said. “The water is not an obstacle to them. They are powering the water; they take control. I think it is beautiful.”
Joining Lowe was Stanford senior Melissa Knight, who placed first in team at the 2007 U.S. Nationals. Stanford senior Poppy Carling, who represented the U.S. at the FINA World Cup in Yokohama and FINA World Cup Tournament in Moscow, also swam.
Two time Olympian Heather Olson, coach of Stanford, and Olympian Kim Wurzel- LoPorto, coach of UIW, were also in attendance.
The meet was a chance for the Terrapins junior co-captain Brittney Baker to look and see what her team can do better.
“It always amazes me how graceful they look during it,” Baker said. “To have your legs and body halfway out of the water and using just your arms without making a splash, you have to be very strong.”
The UMW invitational was the second meet of the 2008 season, after UMW traveled down to William and Mary on Saturday to swim with many of the same teams. The Terrapins placed fifth on Saturday with 29 points. Stanford placed first with 101 points, followed by UIW with 84 points, Richmond University with 61.5 points, and William and Mary with 55 points.
The National Tournament consists of intercollegiate teams as well as club teams, like the Terrapins. The team’s rigorous five day a week practice schedule is what consistently allows the team to compete on such a competitive level.
“There were girls walking on the deck with us wearing Team USA parkas,” O’Connor said. “These girls on the Olympic team are nationally ranked and even though they are our age, they have been swimming for about 16 years; many of our swimmers just started.”
Considering the talent of the swimmers, Baker was pleased with the outcome of the meet.
“Placing fifth is good considering the fact that we are not a varsity team,” she said. “Most of the girls on our team start in college. If you are swimming for Stanford or UIW you have been swimming for a long time and you are getting paid to swim.”
For O’Connor, the UMW invitational was just another chance for her to reaffirm her commitment to the growing sport.
“To have the stands full was pretty spectacular,” she said. “We have never had that before. Swimming with the best in front of that kind of crowd can be very intimidating, yet really inspirational. When you swim with athletes of that caliber, it makes you want to continue with the sport and get better.”
UMW will next compete in the regional meet at George Mason University where they will need to place in the top 12 spots to make a trip to Nationals held at Ohio State.