With tiny sparkly leotards and bright performance makeup, the Mason synchronized swimming team could easily be mistaken for a dance or gymnastics team. In a way, they are, as they flip, turn and propel themselves out of the pool in unison.
As one of only 20 competitive college-level teams in the country, Mason’s club team is able to compete at the top-level nationally against varsity.
On Feb. 23. the Mason synchronized swimming team hosted the South Zone Region Championships for teams from Texas, Florida and Virginia. The annual competition rotates between host schools each year.
Each performance is approximately 4.5 minutes long, half of the time the swimmers are underwater, the other half above water. Judges critique the teams on their artistic impressions, execution, musical interpretation and synchronization. Teams can compete as a group of 8 or in triples, doubles or in solos.
The Mason synchronized swimming club was created 8 years ago by a mother-daughter team who have stayed on to coach the current team.
While some of the girls on the team have experience with synchronized swimming, a few have never played a sport before.
“You have to learn how to be graceful in the water,” said Rebecca Howell, a junior. “We swim to our strengths as individuals.” Howell comes from a gymnastics background, which has been beneficial to her in the pool.
“We invite anyone to join,” said senior Julia Roke. “If you can swim across the pool we can teach you the rest.”
The team practices 4 or 5 nights a week for 2.5 hours from Sept. to March. Half of the time is spent on routines in the water, the other half on dry land fitness.
“People think this is easy to do and its not,” said freshman Sophie Polnow, who had never participated in synchronized swimming before college. “Not only do you have to worry about breathing, you also have to make sure that you don’t have to touch the bottom of the pool.”
Keeping off of the floor of the pool becomes particularly challenging during lifts. While holding their breath underwater, two girls must tread water while pushing a third girl out of the water with equal force.
The team writes the routines as a group, incorporating opinions and ideas from each member.
This year, nationals are being held in Stanford, Cali. after spring break. 2 girls from the team will travel to the West coast to compete.