Swimmer in synch with the water

Sydney Sprinkle, 13, has made a ton of noise this year - only it might be difficult to hear her while she's underwater.

The Wedgwood eighth-grader who attends Our Lady of the Lake School has discovered a unique way to exercise. After experimenting with gymnastics, ballet, dance and swim, she decided to combine them all into one sport. She now swims with Washington state's largest synchronized-swimming club, the Seattle Synchronized Swim Team.

More than swimming laps

Sydney Sprinkle began her synchronized-swimming career two years ago after hearing about a summer camp put on by Seattle Synchro.

Seattle has had a synchronized-swimming presence for more than 20 years. Seattle Synchro formed in 1995 - after reorganizing from the Seattle Aqua Club - and calls the Carole Ann Wald Memorial Pool its home at Kenmore's St. Edwards State Park.

The program at Seattle Synchro offers a number of opportunities for swimmers of all ages and skill levels.

"Synchro is the perfect sport for athletes who love water sports and music," said team director Elly Beerman, a University of Washington graduate. "No previous experience is necessary. Anyone can do synchro; it just takes practice."

Perhaps it was Sydney's mother's history with synchronized swimming - she joined a synchro team in Hoquiam during high school - that led her to the pool. "It's the perfect sport for kids who get bored swimming laps," said Celeste Stokes, Sydney's mother.

Other Seattle synchronized swimmers

Only in her second year, Sydney has achieved great success. She placed 27th out of 40 with her solo act and eighth out of 31 nationally in her group of eight at the national competition for her age group in June.

Sydney joins other accomplished synchronized swimmers from the Seattle area. Three-time Olympic medalist Tracie Ruiz-Conforto was the first gold medalist for the sport at its Olympics debut in the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Ruiz-Conforto - who won two gold medals that year and a silver in 1988 - has since been named the Synchronized Swimmer of the Century by the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Another name you might soon become familiar with is Jillian Penner. A former Roosevelt High School student, Penner now competes at the national level with the U.S. National Team I.

Penner, now 18, began her synchro career when she was 9 at Seattle Synchro. Before her senior year in high school, Penner moved to Walnut Creek, Calif., to train with the Aquanuts, a legendary program now in its 38th year.

With the U.S. national team, Penner's duet took seventh at the 2006 national championships, while her team took fourth. Seattle Synchro proudly boasts of Penner, as she is on pace to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

A different kind of sport

It is swimmers like Penner whom the girls at Seattle Synchro idolize as role models. Fifteen-year-old Sand Point resident Jenna Lee is well on her way toward a great career. Her trio placed fifth of 39 this year at age-group nationals, and her team placed second of 29.

Newcomers to the sport like Sydney Sprinkle find the sport fun and exciting. "I like to call it water ballet," she said. "It's a fun way to stay in the water, and it's much different than any other sport."

For more information, go to www. seattlesynchro.com.

[[In-content Ad]]