Next week, 12 teenage girls from Halifax will set off for Quebec City with their bags packed full of sequinned swim suits, scuba belts and Knox gelatin, which they will use to style their hair.
These girls are members of the Atlantis Synchronized Swimming Club, the only synchro organization in Nova Scotia with a nationally ranked program. On March 15, Atlantis will send two teams in the 13-15 and Junior (16-18) age groups, to the national qualifying competition. This competition will decided whether they get to compete at the national championships, and they expect to qualify.
Ally Merrill coaches the club’s four Junior swimmers, who are all new to the age group. All four of them will compete in figures, an individual elements competition. Abby Van Snick and Jessica Landry will also compete in the solo routine event, while their teammates Eliza MacDonald and Sophia Evans will compete in a duet.
Merrill is excited to bring the girls to their first Junior national competition.
“From a coaching perspective, this year isn’t about the results,” she said. “It’s kind of like we’re building a house — this year we’re laying the foundation, next year we’ll put the walls up and the year after we’ll put the roof on.”
This is the first year Merrill has coached for Atlantis.
“My goal is to have an elite club in the Maritimes, because we’ve never had one here,” she said.
“I’ve realized that all it really takes is swimming a lot of hours and good coaching…I don’t think it’s impossible to achieve at all.”
Merrill uses technology to supplement her coaching skills. During the practice she uses her iPad to record video and analyze the swimmers’ routines and figures.
The swimmers also watch videos posted by other teams to see what developments are being made across the sport as a whole. Landry has decided that she wants to try a new method for her vertical spin because she had seen a member of the Spanish Olympic team do it on Instagram.
“She was sculling really differently,” says Landry. “Her bottom hand was moving in and out and kind of turning. I want to try it out.”
Merrill says that videos like this help them prepare for competition.
“When I used to swim… it was impossible to see what everybody else was up to until you went to qualifiers, you only saw the rest of the country once a year,” says Merrill. “And now people are posting videos all the time. It’s easier to bridge the gap.”
Eliza MacDonald is looking forward to seeing her competitors in person at qualifiers, even if she’s able to see snippets of what they’re doing online
“I love watching everything,” says MacDonald. “After we swim we can go and hang out and see the other teams.”