Author: Griff Wynne
Occidental’s new synchronized swimming club, Synccidental, is hitting the pool deck. The fledging club, co-founded by president Audrey Shawley (first-year) and vice president Gillian Mangan (sophomore) had their first information session Jan. 31.
According to Shawley, 15 people attended the first session. They plan to hold weekly hour-long practices starting in the next two weeks.
“We’re not looking for a huge time commitment, just a dedicated commitment to the time we choose. We’re not flakey; once it starts, it starts,” Shawley said.
Both Shawley and Mangan have experience with synchronized swimming. Mangan said she missed the sport her first year at Occidental, and was overjoyed when Shawley sent a message asking if anyone would be interested in starting a club.
“It was such a big part of my life, and it’s going to be nice to do it a little now,” Mangan said.
Mangan and Shawley decided the club will not compete or travel. Instead, they want to focus on teaching skills and having fun.
The swimmers are particularly excited for the change of soundtrack to their routines. While traditional, intense instrumental music often accompanies competitive synchronized swimming, Synccidental plans on swimming to whatever music the members want to bring in.
“We’re the coaches, so we will be teaching what we want to teach, and using popular and fun music,” Mangan said. “It’s all about what we really enjoy, because it’s completely directed by us.”
Other than a brief swim test, there are no requirements for joining the team. All Shawley asks is that her swimmers be interested and able to float.
First-year Camille Wyss has become an active member of the club despite having no experience in synchronized swimming. With the support of Mangan and Shawley, Wyss hopes to become a stronger swimmer. She also works to encourage other new swimmers to join Synccidental.
“I have no experience at all, and lack all types of grace and physical strength,” Wyss said.
Shawley first saw synchronized swimming while watching the Olympics when she was six years old and was dazzled. Shawley measured herself everyday until she reached the height limit to join her first team.
Shawley competed for 10 years before coming to Occidental and said she is ready and dedicated to jump into Synccidental.
Mangan started synchronized swimming in ninth grade after watching her older sister on her high school team. She had swam competitively and was looking for a new, different way to stay in the pool. Managan’s middle school swim coach also coached high school synchronized swimming and recruited her to the team.
Both athletes occasionally struggled with the idiosyncrasy of the sport. With the immediate connotation of “swimming” as race/speed swimming, synchronized swimming often goes under the radar.
“We won state and people still didn’t really know we had a team,“ Mangan said. “With the physically demanding and presentational aspects, it’s a weird thing no other sport really does.”
Furthermore, there is often confusion about solo synchronized swimming routines. Mangan compared the sport to dancing, as the “synchronized” aspect is not always in reference to the other athletes, but to the music.
Shawley and Mangan both hope the uniqueness of synchronized swimming will draw in Occidental students. As a sport, it is something new that they hope will intrigue swimmers.
Synccidental is completely self-sufficient and working within the hours of open swim, but plans to meet with ASOC soon to discuss scheduling and the possibility of funding.
For now, the club is focusing on finding a solid group of excited swimmers that want to have fun and try something new.
Mangan hopes to challenge the school to rethink their connotations of the sport and gain a new swimming community.
“It’s fun, exercise and teamwork,” Shawley said.
Students interested in Synccidental are encouraged to contact Shawley at email@example.com.
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