Olivia Schafer was committed to gymnastics before she became a fan of flipping in an alternate sport. Abbey Oliver eventually quenched her thirst for water sports without having to shave seconds off her race times. And Maddy Dolack was committed to dance until she discovered her pastime’s aqua equal.
Once they found synchronized swimming, the Lake Norman area teens ditched their previous endeavors. Schafer, Oliver and Dolack are members of Carolina Synchro and are part of the organization’s recent national-level success.
Two of its teams reached the championship finals in April at the USA Synchro U.S. National Championships. This summer, 13 of Carolina Synchro’s swimmers will participate in the 2017 Junior Olympic Championships in Riverside, California.
Coach Anne Schulte founded Carolina Synchro in 2009. The program, which operates at Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics, has steadily expanded its reputation in the sport.
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“I’m very happy with our growth,” said Schulte. “We’ve improved every year. That’s always a good thing. I think the progress has been a little faster than what I expected.”
Carolina Synchro’s recognition has been split between its teams and individuals. At major competitions, swimmers compete in solo, duet, trio and team (four to eight swimmers) competitions.
The U.S. National Championships and the Junior Olympics are USA Synchro’s two major annual competitions. They differ in age group divisions and the number of competitors. Both are considered to be prestigious events, but it is generally more difficult for a team or a swimmer to qualify for the National Championships.
At the 2016 National Championships, one of Carolina Synchro’s teams (13- to 15-year-old age group), advanced to the final round of competition for the first time and placed 12th. So when the 13- to 15-year-old team placed 11th this year, it was another example of the steady improvement Carolina Synchro has shown in the last eight years.
“Our goal this year and last year was to make finals and we have been able to do that,” said Abbey Oliver, a 15-year-old Huntersville resident. “If we keep working this hard, we could maybe be one of the top eight or nine teams at nationals.”
Oliver, who used to be a competitive swimmer, was also a member of the 16- to 19-year-old Junior team that placed 10th at nationals. Others were Schafer, Elaina Anderson, Rose Auten, Marian Catahan, Carissa Bostian, Addison Cupples, Kelsey Dolack and Sarah Stump.
At the Junior Olympic South Regional Qualifiers, held at Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics on May 13-14, Oliver was one of four Carolina Synchro swimmers to qualify for Junior Olympic Nationals in four events. Catahan, a Charlotte resident who attends Mooresville’s Pine Lake Prep, and Schafer also qualified in four events, including as duet partners.
Schafer is Anne Schulte’s daughter, but the Carolina Synchro program had been established for a year by the time Schafer tested the waters. She had been a standout gymnast and was drawn to synchronized swimming’s gymnastics component.
Last year, Schafer and Catahan were invited to attend an invitation-only USA Synchro national talent camp. They will attend a similar camp this summer too, in Las Vegas.
“I want to be on the Junior Olympic (national) Team,” Schafer said of her goals. “I went to trials this year” in late fall in Lewisville, Texas. “I didn’t make it, but I got to go to the national talent competition through it.”
Last year, Schafer was a member of Carolina Synchro’s breakout 13- to 15-year-old team. This year’s 13- to 15-year-old squad that followed last year’s example included Oliver, Catahan and Stump (some swimmers compete for two age group teams). Other 13- to 15-year-old members were Bridget Anderson, Campbell Cupples and Maddy Dolack.
Maddy Dolack, a 14-year-old Mooresville resident, had no intentions of being a competitive synchro swimmer a couple years ago. A former dancer, Dolack enjoyed practicing on the weekends and attending showcase events. Attending U.S. Nationals was a new experience.
“I really wanted to go this year,” she said. “I was determined to get there. It was really a fun experience. I’ve impressed myself with how far I’ve come in the last two years. I want to keep growing in synchro and see how far I can get.”
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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