Synchronized Swim Club treads water with the best

Synchronized swimmers need to be flexible, strong, coordinated, and completely comfortable in the water. The complexity of the sport requires constant practice and dedication. The Upper Keys’ the Synchro Sirens embody every bit of that dedication – only smaller.

Led by former Ohio State University’s national collegiate champion and Keys native Coach Isla Turner, the Sirens are hard at work mastering the skills they’ll need to be champions.

In three years, the club has grown in membership from four to 15, with both competitive and recreational teams.

Now in her third year of synchronized swimming, young Siren Ava is enjoying herself as much as ever.

“I did the camp and thought it was really fun, so I joined the club and kept doing it. My favorite part are the drills the group does,” said Ava.

The tiniest Siren, Alice, was given the duty of being on top of the lifts, which she said are always fun. Being on top of the formation has allowed her to break out of her shell. So the team gave her the “Turtle” award.

Turner often challenges her Sirens’ ability levels. Using a combination of weight belts, ankle weights, and inflatable jugs to help master stabilizing upside-down, Turner uses advanced training techniques to get the most out of her swimmers.

Turner relies on technology as training aids too. Along with an underwater microphone, Turner records the girls with a GoPro and then reviews the routine on her iPad with the group, tweaking each swimmer to expedite muscle memory.

“In the first few years of learning the sport, it takes a lot of practice, especially in the beginning,” said Turner. “That’s why our swimmers are required to practice 3 to 4 days a week.”

That’s not all. Turner may assign extra training, homework and set goals for the girls outside of practice to help them move along faster. The sirens have welcomed the challenge.

Siren Skye says her favorite part about being part of the team is “learning routines, and I also like the costumes.”

Another Siren, Liza, said she enjoys being part of a team and making new friends the most. Liza was recognized by the team for her willingness to help other swimmers, aptly being awarded the “Friendly Frog” award.

In the first few years of the sport, training is dedicated to developing the swimmer’s orientation in the water, learning drills in and out of the water, mastering sculling skills, and conditioning. Sculling is the term used for horizontal movements by the arms used to keep a swimmer’s head above the surface.

“The hardest thing they’ll learn at the beginning are the different types of sculling skills that they’ll need when they perform different spins,” said Turner. “At any competition, they have to perform 4 figures and compete individually while their forms are observed by a panel of judges. Their forms are 35 percent of the placement score; the other 65 percent is their routine.”

At competition, the swimmers are not allowed to use caps or goggles. That means swimmers have to get used to having water in their eyes. To keep their hair contained, the team uses Knox gelatin to solidify their locks into a stiff bun. Synchronized swimmers refer to it as “knoxing.”

“It feels like you have a rock on your head,” said the oldest Siren, Maleah. “You have to use hot water and conditioner to get it out, but it takes a couple days.”

Turner said the sport has gotten more difficult since she competed, and the level of endurance and power needed in the water has, too.

“The lifts and throws have gotten higher, more powerful, and more creative. The speed of the routines has also become a lot faster,” said Turner.

Whatever the sport will require, the Sirens appear to be ready, and in sync.

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