The five girls lined up waiting for their cue, each standing with her left knee cocked and her right hand placed on the shoulder of the girl in front of her.
With a version of "Walking on Sunshine" blaring over the speakers, it was time to make their moves. That's where it got tricky.
First, Tessa Peerbolte and Samantha Silverstein dove in together, head first. Splash! A couple of beats later, Emma Stump, Rose Auten and Rush Ballard jumped in behind them, feet first. Splash, again.
This is what synchronized swimming is all about: Two parts water and one part showtime.
Piggybacking on the interest of national events at Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics - one in August 2009 and another coming up next month - the facility started a synchro program for beginners last fall.
Now with 10 students split between two classes, the group of advanced beginners plans to perform a routine at the U.S. Nationals at HFFA April 14-17.
The program is taught by Anne Schulte, a collegiate all-American in synchro at Ohio State in the early 1980s. She attended the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1984, the first time the sport was represented at the Olympics, and was one cut away from making the national team.
Back then, synchro had only solo and duet events. The team competition, made up of eight swimmers performing at the same time, was introduced at the 1996 Olympics.
Schulte had led a small program at another facility for a couple of years, but it fizzled away two years ago. Tessa Peerbolte was one of her students, and every time her mother ran into Schulte in the community, she asked Schulte about starting another program.
Tessa,12, participated in a synchro program in Atlanta before her family moved to Huntersville five years ago. She and Cornelius's Emma Stump, 12, who worked with Schulte two years ago, are the only members of HFFA's advanced beginners class with any previous synchro experience.
The others - Silverstein, Auten and Ballard - have experience in related fields, including competitive swimming, gymnastics and dance. Synchro is often described as gymnastics or dance under water.
"I used to do gymnastics and dancing," said Rush Ballard, a 9-year-old from Huntersville. "I think dancing is closest to (synchro) swimming. With some moves dancing is closer, and sometimes gymnastics is closer."
At the highest level of team synchro, the swimmers perform lifts and throws with their teammates. Schulte's group is far removed from that skill set. The first thing she must teach is endurance and sculling, the ability to propel oneself to stay at the surface of the water.
Her advanced beginners can do that, often sustaining themselves effortlessly for minutes at a time. About 45 minutes into a 60-minute practice, Schulte asked the group, "Who's tired?" When no one responded, Schulte threw her hands in the air and gave a cheer for the small but worthy accomplishment.
The group was working on a routine, with arm and leg movements that resemble cheerleading moves. As they practiced, Schulte communicated direction through a microphone connected to an underwater speaker system.
"Straighten your knee! Point your toe!" she barked.
Next Sunday, both classes, including a younger class of beginners, will perform their routines for their parents. They already have matching one-piece "competition suits," and one parent, Dayna Auten of Mooresville, recently spent part of a Sunday practice sewing orange and purple sequins to the girls' headpieces.
"It's not rocket science," Auten said.
Maybe not, but the last thing you want in this sport is for the swimmers' suits to be out of synch.