The Collegian
Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Synchronized swimming gains national recognition

The University of Richmond's synchronized swimming team placed eighth at the U.S. Collegiate Championships and became the second best club team in the nation this season, head coach Asha Bandal said.

The U.S. Collegiate Championships were held March 16 to March 19 in Buffalo, N.Y. More than 200 students from 22 college teams, including varsity teams, junior varsity teams and club teams, competed.

Bandal said that this was the highest ranking the team had ever achieved in her seven years as head coach. "I was so proud of them," she said. "I think they did the absolute best job that I could have imagined for them. They completely exceeded my expectations.

"Looking at them at the beginning of the year, we knew that this year was going to be something special. We knew that the potential was there ... but I didn't think eighth was a possibility."

Although the team consisted of only four swimmers, Bandal said that this had in fact worked in their favor because each swimmer had performed incredibly well and had placed in her individual category. This brought the team average higher than the other teams, which were bigger in size but had a lower average.

Bandal said that during the nationals a swimmer from another school had told Bandal that her teammates had been wondering, "Who are those girls with the spiders on their caps? ... Because they look really good." Bandal said it was exciting that other "gigantic" varsity teams had recognized the talents of Richmond's "small tiny" club team.

Sophomore Jenny Jarboe said: "We like to think of this as a stepping stone until next year. It's a really good entry to more competitive ranks in synchronized swimming."

Jarboe said that the strength of the team was the chemistry of the members. She said that all the swimmers understood how each other acted, both in and out of the swimming pool. "We were very in tune with each other's rhythm," she said.

Bandal said that the swimmers had similar attitudes towards hard work. "These girls really are on the same pages, wanting to work as hard as they possibly can in order to succeed on a national level," she said. "I think it really paid off, and I really enjoyed seeing the team chemistry."

Freshman Katy Alexander placed second in the C Figures, which was the best overall for the team. "That was a huge accomplishment, because my goal for the season was to place top three," she said.

Freshman Dana McLachlin said that although the team seemed to be stressed with school work at the beginning, it got constantly better throughout the season. She said that the swimming camp they had in Florida, where they spent five hours a day swimming, helped the team become more focused and prepared for nationals.

McLachlin, who has been swimming for 10 years, said that it had been a challenge for her to get used to having a lot less practice time compared to other teams, but in general she did pretty well.

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Junior Katherine Bull was the only member who did not have any experience with swimming before college. Bandal said that Bull improved incredibly every year, and she placed 11th in the D Figures.

Bull said she would not be swimming next year, because she was getting busier as a senior and she did not see room to improve greatly after swimming for three years.

"It was a hard decision, because I love the girls," Bull said. "In the team I was really into it, but outside of that, there wasn't much more. So, team-wise, I am definitely going to miss them, but sport-wise, it's just something that I did. I really liked where I left."

As Bull will not be on the team next season, Bandal said the biggest challenge for the team will be to recruit new members. Synchronized swimming used to be a varsity sport until 2001, but it became difficult to recruit new swimmers after it lowered to a club sport, Bandal said. She said the team would welcome beginners, as well as experienced swimmers, to participate and contribute to the team's success on a national level.

Jarboe said: "This year was all about getting our name out there. And next year, we are going to make a splash! I really think next year we have the potential to do something really fantastic, because now we know how each other swims and we know more about each other than we did going into the season last year. And I think it can only get better."

Contact staff reporter Masato Tsuruta at masato.tsuruta@richmond.edu

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