Six years after Anne Schulte founded the Carolina Synchro synchronized swimming team, members are ready to make their move in national competition.
The team has grown considerably since Schulte founded it in 2009 with 11 girls she gathered by word of mouth.
“It takes about six years to become really competitive,” said Schulte, who competed in synchronized swimming at Ohio State University. “We have more experience, and a lot of the girls, especially the older girls team, have been with me since the beginning.
“We’re starting to make our mark,” Schulte said.
Schulte co-coaches with Cassidy Ramage Crew and Rebecca Hinson. Carolina Synchro team practice at the Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics center.
Her teams, which compete in age groups up to age 19, placed high at the 2015 Southern Regional Competition and qualified for the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Junior Olympics in Greensboro in July. Despite several swimmers suffering injuries and illness just before the competition, Carolina Synchro teams consistently placed in the top half of the field.
“I’m so proud of the team for all of the improvements we have made this season,” team member Kami Heath, 15, wrote in an email. “We are definitely not the same team that we were at our first meet.”
You’re in the water, and you can’t hear, can’t see. You have to have so much body control to maintain your position.
Anne Schulte, founder of the Carolina Synchro team
Synchronized swimming is a combination of swimming, dance and athletic endurance. The sport requires participants to hold their breath for long periods of time while performing precise movements in sync with teammates.
“It’s extremely demanding athletically,” Schulte said. “It’s kind of like dance in the water.”
The oldest team members practice four or five times a week, and in preparation for nationals, the 17-year-old girls who qualified practiced six hours a day on weekdays. They work out in and out of the water to build strength, speed and endurance.
Synchronized swimmers cannot touch the pool bottom during routines, which means they must use eggbeater kicks to stay upright or “sculling,” back and forth arm movements, to keep their bodies horizontal or upside down in the water.
“You’re in the water, and you can’t hear, can’t see,” Schulte said. “You have to have so much body control to maintain your position.”
The pool at the aquatics center is equipped with an underwater speaker, so Schulte can guide swimmers as they are practicing.
Athletes who are swimmers sometimes transition to synchronized swimming. Schulte said swimmers often have a good feel for the water. Some girls also have taken dance, which helps with the artistic moves.
Carolina Synchro is the only synchronized swimming team in the Charlotte area, Schulte said. Many of the girls live in the Lake Norman area, but others come from as far as Fort Mill.
Lexi Becraft, a senior at Hough High School, said she joined Carolina Synchro after attending a summer camp. She said she likes the uniqueness of synchronized swimming.
“Not many people can say they are a competitive synchronized swimmer,” Becraft wrote in an email. “I also love the friendships I have made through synchro. My teammates are my best friends, and I don’t know what I would do without them.”
Charlotte Catholic High School senior Emma Stump, who placed 13th in nationals in the solo free routine for ages 16-17, said she wanted to join a synchronized swim team after watching the sport in the summer Olympics.
She said many people ask her if the sport is difficult, and she tells them it’s like running a marathon while holding your breath.
“You may be physically prepared but if you’re having any negative thoughts, your whole routine could be affected,” Stump wrote in an email. “Your body listens to your mind, and if you don’t believe in yourself, your routines can go downhill very fast.”
The teams worked all year on the routines they performed at the national competition in Greensboro. Schulte said one of the most satisfying moments was when the president of USA Synchro told her that she’s seen Carolina Synchro’s teams improve every year.
“That meant a lot to me,” Schulte said. “People are noticing that our skill level and our routines are improving every year.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolina Synchro will offer a synchronized swimming camp that is open to beginners Aug. 3-7. Swimmers should be at least 7 years old and comfortable in deep water. For more information about fall registration for Carolina Synchro, email Anne Schulte at Carolinasynchro@gmail.com. Classes will be on Thursdays starting in mid-September. More information is available at www.hffa.com/synchro.