Swimmers in synch
By Mike Sikorski
Western's synchronized swimmers travelled, in unison, to the waters of Hamilton for a third-place finish at McMaster University on the weekend in a warm-up event for the approaching provincial championships.
After a successful season last year, finishing third place in Ontario, Western took their first big dip into competition for 1998 and performed well against six other schools.
"I felt the team to beat was Queen's," coach Erin Wilson said on her predictions before Western entered the pool.
However, to the surprise of many, McGill was able to steal first from both Queen's and Western to capture the team event.
It was a team competition that could have gone either way with Western coming just 0.4 points away from the second place Queen's squad and a point away from McGill with only 100 points available to be awarded.
Although Queen's is still looked upon by Western as the team to beat, other schools feel the same about Western's program.
"The McGill coach told us he felt we were their main competition, after seeing Queen's practice," said assistant coach and swimmer, Sarah Gravel.
The team, which includes veterans Stacy Young, Sonya Clark and Hiliary Brandon, will give Western experience and its best shot in years for gold at the upcoming Ontario finals.
"The team [competition] is our biggest strength," Wilson said about the close finish in the team event.
In the duet, Cindy Clark and Allison Mckinnon were able to grab the fifth-place spot, a solid performance by Western's only duet entry, Wilson said. "It was a really great swim. We were hoping they would place in the top six and they got into fifth."
In the solos, Western was not able to medal with Sarah Gravel taking seventh and Sonya Clark placing ninth.
"They were up against some really stiff competition in the solos," Wilson said on the low Western solo results.
With the close finish in the team event and the promising performance of the Western duet tandem, Wilson feels there is potential for the synchro-swimmers to bring home two medals to Western from the provincial championships on Feb. 6-8. With the finals taking place in Kingston, Western would like nothing more than to beat the defending Queen's swimmers on their own turf.
"Our goal is to take them in their own pool," Wilson said about the budding rivalry between the two universities.
The goal seems to be realistic according to Gravel, who works mainly with the duet and solo routines. "Having two and a half weeks to improve our techniques and routines should help."