By ALLISON MARTIN
The University of Mary Washington synchronized swimming club team competed at the 2013 Collegiate National Championships in Palo Alto, Calif. at Stanford University March 20-23.
Jennifer Sustar, a senior and captain of the synchronized swimming club team, has been an enthusiastic leader and member of the team, which goes by the UMW Terrapins, all four years. Sustar works to coordinate their competitions and practices, and she brings a lot of experience and perspective to the table.
Sustar was excited for the Synchronized Swimming Collegiate Nationals this season.
“It was in California,” Sustar said. “I had been there my freshman year for nationals, and it was just beautiful. It’s such a small sport, anyone who has a team and wants to compete can go.”
Sustar also highlighted the difficulties with the synchronized swimming.
“It may seem easy, but it’s actually really hard,” Sustar said. “The ballet leg technique takes about a month to learn, for example, and that is one of the easiest things we learn. In practice and at competitions, we always want to get out there and improve our personal bests, beat our own scores or beat another team.”
The UMW synchro team had to put in a lot of intensive training to be prepared for Nationals. The training included lap swimming and an extensive amount of underwater breath control, as well as synchro-specific drills such as sculling and eggbeater kicking.
The Terrapins incorporate weight training at the beginning of the season for arm and core strength. During the competition part of the season, they primarily work on routine rehearsal, and they continually work on flexibility through stretching and split work. They practice five times a week for two or three hours at a time.
In 2013, the Terrapins’ hard work eventually paid off with a four-day trip to coastal California.
There are only four members of the Terrapins: Sustar, sophomores Maryia Froloy and Allie Bentz, and senior Katie Hasson.
Sustar mentioned that the team is searching for new members to sustain its unique club program. Jessie Waldman, an alumna and former synchro swimmer, serves as a volunteer coach. She did not accompany the girls to Nationals this season.
The Terrapins gained a lot from the experience competing at Stanford University.
“It was really cool to see the amazing swimmers,” said Sustar. “That’s what it’s supposed to look like. It was a great experience for everyone. It was inspiring to see the athletes’ great body control and strength, core strength.”
The Stanford University synchro team, who won their seventh national title this year, was one of the best teams in attendence. UMW’s synchro team got to compete with big-name schools at a state-of-the-art, outdoor aquatic facility.
Stanford’s synchronized swimming program is dominant. Many of its members are also members of the United States National Team, including Olympian Mariya Koroleva, who competed as the US duet in London with her partner, Mary Killman. Furthermore, this year’s World University Games National Team includes eight members of Stanford’s synchro team. The UMW team valued the opportunity to witness such a high level of competition at Collegiate Nationals.