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Synchronized swimming tops Ohio State, takes eighth national title

After taking first at the championships last Thursday-Saturday, synchronized swimming took home its eighth national title and became the second Cardinal team to win a championship this year. (Courtesy of Stanford Athletics)

Stanford’s synchronized swimming team had high expectations for itself prior to the start of the 2016 season.

“We want to be at the top and we don’t see any reason why we can’t be,” head coach Sara Lowe said before competition kicked off. “Beyond just winning a title, [we] have a very big goal of making sure that Stanford synchro is back where it should be.”

The Cardinal achieved both of these feats last week when they came in first at the 2016 U.S. National Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Championships in Gainesville, Florida, bringing home the program’s eighth national championship and its first since 2013. The national title also marked the 130th overall for Stanford Athletics and the second this academic year (men’s soccer won its national title in December).

Stanford’s path to the podium featured wins in three of the four final events: Clare McGovern, Erica Slavin and Sandra Ortellado came in first in the trio event, while Slavin and Ortellado also earned first place in duet. Stanford’s two groups for team swim similarly fared well, coming in first and fourth respectively.

Stanford’s ability to field two teams for competition is something the program has not taken for granted. Prior to this season, the Cardinal had not had enough swimmers to form two separate teams since 2005 — a disadvantage in competition since the team event yields the most points.

This year, the squad welcomed seven freshmen, allowing the team to send two groups to compete in team swim, which ultimately had a direct impact on Stanford’s ability to win the national title.

“It was a positive feedback loop. We thought we could do it because we had the extra people, so that made us push harder and we wanted it more — and it was that constant cycle,” said McGovern, who in addition to participating in team and trio earned second place in the solo competition.

Things did not start out perfectly in the team event for the Cardinal. While the team McGovern is part of earned second place in the preliminary rounds, the swim itself was “probably one of the worst [ones] we’ve had in a really long time.”

McGovern attributed this to the fact that the time the team had to practice its routine with music was cut short a few days before the preliminary; such practice is imperative for swimmers to familiarize themselves with each new pool that they compete in. For example, the pool at the University of Florida is indoors, while Stanford’s swimmers are used to the outdoor pool at Avery Aquatic Center; the chlorine and lighting can also vary from location to location.

On top of the environmental difficulties lie the inherent challenges to team swim.

“For team, it takes eight people to perform their best at one time for three minutes,” McGovern said. “It’s so specific and there’s so many things that could happen. You have to take these eight girls and work together and come as one and work as a machine. So it’s very different and that much harder.”

McGovern and her teammates, nicknamed the “Pirate Pack,” would rebound for the finals of the event: The group — also including Ortellado, Slavin, Isabella Park, Marisa Tashima, Amanda Urke and Evelyna Wang — earned a first-place 84.3667.

“We put the final stamp on it and were just like, ‘this is ours,’” McGovern said.

Team Winning Routine – Stanford University – 2016 US Collegiat…Team Winning Routine – Stanford University – 2016 US Collegiate Nationals

Posted by LiveSynchro – Powered By takeItLive.tv on Saturday, March 26, 2016

The other Cardinal team — comprising Elle Billman, Gillian Brassil, Madeleine Duboc, Dylan Harding, Rina Horii, Joanna Langner and Shiree Lee — scored a 80.6500, good for fourth place.

The trio, duet and solo preliminary rounds went better for the Cardinal — Stanford’s two trio teams came in first and second, its duet tied with Ohio State and McGovern was just behind her Buckeye counterpart in the solo — and boosted the team’s confidence that it would be able to win the title.

“After that we knew that there was a shot of winning of the championship,” McGovern said. “There was a glimmer of hope because we were so close to [those in first place], especially with the duet.”

McGovern, Ortellado and Slavin scored a 83.2667, while another trio of Cardinal swimmers — Tashima, Urke and Wang — was right behind its teammates with a 82.1667; Ortellado and Slavin earned 82.9667 points for the duet, while McGovern’s 81.3333 points were 1.9667 behind first-place Emma Baranski.

Trio Winning Routine – Stanford University – 2016 US Collegiate Nationals

Posted by LiveSynchro – Powered By takeItLive.tv on Saturday, March 26, 2016

After several days of competition, Stanford’s total of 98 points eclipsed those of the defending national champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes, which had 92, as well as those of the University of the Incarnate Word, which ended the competition with 75 — its two main competitors in the event.

The Cardinal are already looking forward to next season as they prepare to defend their title, something they are in a great position to do: They graduate only one senior, maintain their solo, duet and trio swimmers and will be able to continue to field two teams.

“All the hard practices, all the times when you’re like, ‘I don’t want to push any harder because it’s too hard, or because I’m too tired, or because you can’t feel your legs’ — it all culminates [in] that moment when you’re on top of the podium,” McGovern said.

 

Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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