Despite being the smallest team in attendance at the national championships at Miami University of Ohio, the University of Richmond synchronized swimming team achieved a 10th place finish.
Over the weekend of March 21, two of the three Richmond swimmers swept the awards for which each collegiate coach votes, including senior Katy Alexander who won the Mary Jo Ruggieri $500 scholarship, and senior Dana McLachlin who won the 2014 Collegiate Athlete of the Year award.
Sophomore Sophia Diamond, the youngest member of the Richmond synchro trio, won a national title in the solo routine event in her skill category.
Head coach Asha Bandal said the national competition included every synchro team in the country, from club teams with little university backing to powerhouse programs at the varsity level.
“We’re kind of in the middle,” Bandal said. “We have so much support from both our sports club [office] and our years and years worth of alums.”
According to the USA Synchro website, there are 26 competitive teams in the country. Of those programs, 16 qualified for the national competition, Bandal said.
McLachlin’s 2014 Collegiate Athlete of the Year award was particularly poetic for head coach Asha Bandal, who won the same award as a senior swimmer at Richmond a decade ago at nationals.
McLachlin said Bandal has kept the team alive at Richmond, and that without Bandal she doubted if Richmond would still have a synchro team.
“Normally that award goes to a varsity swimmer,” McLachlin said. “And I think that me and her [coach Bandal] are the only ones who have been non-varsity swimmers, so that’s kind of nice”
The award is given based on athletic and academic excellence and community service.
“Dana has a 3.95 GPA, she is the president of WILL, she is extremely involved in the campus and she’s often placed in the finals for different national championships,” Bandal said.
The Mary Jo Rugierri Scholarship is selected by coaches based on swimming ability, team contributions and community leadership. Alexander placed 4th in her figures competition category, has been a co-captain of the team for three years and has been a co-chair of the UR Relay for Life chapter since her sophomore year.
The national competition included both routine and figure competitions, which vary in how swimmers are judged.
Routines feature synchronized dance movements and leg splashing in deep water. A song plays throughout the arena as well as beneath the water surface to help the swimmers with timing. During Richmond’s trio routine, Alexander and McLachlin repeatedly propelled Diamond out of the water without being able to push off the bottom of the pool.
Figures are more rigidly executed, as each swimmer completes the same, slow, formulaic movements in the pool. Figures are attempted solo, with every judge scrutinizing the swimmers individually.
McLachlin said being on a team with only three members had advantages, such as being able to get much more one-on-one technique coaching and feeling like a very tight unit.
“Usually you get home from spending five straight days with a group and you feel like ‘I just need time by myself,’” Bandal said. “And I found myself already missing them.”
Contact staff reporter Clay Helms at firstname.lastname@example.org