Dancing underwater horses
By Ian Ross
With the bitter bite of winter baring down on the Western community, the thought of gliding through the warm waves off the coast of a tropical island seems appealing to any student.
Now take that image and substitute the island with the lushness of Hamilton and change the warm waves into chlorine-filled swimming pool water. This is the destination for the Mustang women's synchronized swim team as it heads to McMaster for the OWIAA championships.
Since September, this young team of underwater dancers has been working together to find a routine that would take advantage of each individual's strengths.
"We have all competed against each other before, so it was a little strange to now be working together for a common goal," assistant coach and swimmer Celeste Ovens said.
With months of practising behind the squad, this weekend represents the climax of a successful season and the outlook appears bright based on past performances.
Two weeks ago the team travelled to Montreal for the McGill Routine Ranking Meet and fell only behind Queen's in the team event and third overall. With only one other competition earlier in the year, the team has taken every chance to learn and evaluate itself in preparation for this weekend.
"We took into consideration several of the judges' comments from the last meet," Ovens said. "We have changed some of the routine for this upcoming meet that will hopefully put us over the top."
The finely-tuned routine, created by head coach Tara Hawkins, is a high-octane power performance based on the theme song of Midway's "Mortal Kombat."
Hawkins, only a second-year student, arrived at Western last year with the intention of taking a place in the pool with the team, only to find that the Mustangs would not swim unless a head coach was found to choreograph and direct the team.
"The decision to coach wasn't hard because I have always enjoyed coaching more than swimming," Hawkins said. "It was definitely an adjustment at first for me because I had six years of coaching experience but I had never coached people older then me."
Now in her second year as coach, she has taken to her important role with focus and dedication, spending eight to 10 hours a week working with the squad.
With the guidance of Hawkins and strong experience from Ovens, Norine Naguib, Sonia Clark and the rest of the aqua marines, the team appears to have all the necessary skills to battle the rest of the division, with strong competition looking to come from Queen's and McGill, each of whom have a former Olympic swimmer on their team.
"We didn't anticipate doing this well but we put everything into it and there's no reason why we can't come out on top," Ovens said.
DUN, DUN, DUN, DUN, DAH DAH, MORTAL KOMBAT! Mustang synchro swimmer Andreanna Whitty strikes a pose to her routine of "Mortal Kombat". Excellent.