KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For the last 63 years, Kansas City girls have been swimming, flipping and dancing with the city’s only synchronized swimming team, the Sea Sprites.
Girls start as young as five and can stay with the team until they graduate high school.
For friends, Emma MrKonic, Hillary Lewis and Sarah Dunalewicz, their bond has outlasted their time on the team.
“They just really give you a sense of community,” said Lewis. “They push you and help you.”
All three are now in college, in different schools across the country. During their summer vacation, they are back at the swimming pool at the Red Bridge YMCA in South Kansas City, practicing and working with the younger swimmers.
“A lot of people don't even really know about synchronized swimming as a sport in general so they don't know that Kansas City has a team,” said Lewis.
Right now, the Sea Sprites has about 20 girls on the team. They have been practicing their routines since September for an upcoming national competition in June.
“It's beautiful,” said coach Mary Frazier. “It gives so much strength and grace to young girls.”
Far from the days of Esther Williams movies, synchronized swimming is now a competitive athletic sport.
“You're under water, working really hard and you're holding your breath,” said MrKonic. “Then when you come up, you have to make it look easy.”
One of the basic skills synchronized swimmers learn is the scull. This is the frame they learn to hold while upside down in the water. They keep themselves afloat while moving their legs in various formations above the water.
“It takes years to develop the synchronized swimmer,” said Frazier. “You can be a great swimmer but you can't just say, ‘hey, I want to be a great synchronized swimmer.’”
The team holds five practices a week at pools across the metro. Most of the swimmers attend at least three or four practices.
“You have to be synchronized with these people and you have to depend of them for your routine,” said Dunalewicz. “You have to all come to practice so it has more of a team feeling.”
But since the Sea Sprites is a small team, winning medals at competitions is more difficult, especially when they compete against teams of eight girls in one routine.
“They get two points more for every extra person because it's harder to synchronize eight people instead of four,” said Frazier.
That’s why the Sea Sprites want to raise more awareness about their team and encourage more parents to consider sending their children to join.
“I love this team,” MrKonic said. “I've been with them for so long and obviously I keep coming back even now that I'm away at college. I can't stay away from this pool.”
To join the team, the child must be able to swim one lap at the pool. Cost is $100 per month. To learn more, visit www.kcseasprites.org .
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