Thursday August 21, 2014






Sunray hope to shine at nationals

T

he Canadian open synchronized swim championships will be the biggest meet of the season for four members of the Kamloops Sunrays.

Nerves? Yes, there will be some nerves.

That's why you might see Naomi Woolverton dancing beside the pool in Victoria next week.

"(My nerves) are different each time," explains Woolverton, 16. "Some times, I'm really calm, and others I can be a basket case.

"It affects me, so I try not to be nervous . . . I sing and dance and kind of go a little crazy on the deck to try to keep it fun."

The national championships, which will feature some 330 athletes, are scheduled to start Wednesday and end May 6 in Victoria.

Woolverton will compete in junior solos and also junior duets alongside Carly Helgason, who also will perform in solos. Their Sunrays teammates Skye Griffith and Katie Hohensee also will do solos and will team up in the 16-18 duets.

Helgason is the wily veteran of the group, having competed in two previous national championships. It stands to reason, then, that the 17-year-old shouldn't come across any surprises in Victoria.

"I know what to expect and I know the other girls - I've seen them before," Helgason says.

The Sunrays' season starts in September and the swimmers are in the pool 15 to 20 hours a week. They also take part in regional, provincial and Western Canadian competitions throughout the season.

Hohensee and Griffith were at nationals last year in Calgary, but didn't actually compete. They performed exhibition routines, and got a good idea of the level of competition normally seen at national events.

"There are a lot of good swimmers - it's intense," says the 16-year-old Hohensee. "Calgary and Montreal, those are the really big clubs and it's really intimidating. But there are a lot of clubs that are our size, and that's cool."

"We're not as intimidated this year," adds Griffith, the youngest of the group at 15. "The first time, it was kind of scary, but I think we're more prepared this year."

It's a lot to handle for young swimmers, but at least they won't be in unfamiliar waters.

The Victoria pool is no secret to the Kamloops swimmers, and, according to Griffith, it's quite ideal for synchronized swimming.

"There's lights in the pool - that's the nice thing," she says. "If you're doing a spin underwater, and you come up the wrong direction, it can mess up your whole routine. If you're doing a spin and you come up properly, then you're going to have an advantage."

The goal of every athlete's training is to peak at the right time. But in synchronized swimming, where routines are judged, the athletes have to peak at the right time all while challenging themselves.

That means the Sunrays swimmers have added tougher elements to their routines in hopes of getting better scores from judges.

"To be able to compete with the level of synchronized swimmers who go to nationals, you definitely have to up your game and get more intense with the routines," Hohensee says. "As you go up in levels, you sort of pack more in."

But it's the granddaddy of synchronized swim meets in Canada, so the Sunrays won't be holding back.

"There's more at stake . . . I want to do the best I can," Helgason said. "It's the biggest meet and it's a big thing for me."

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The Sunrays are scheduled to play host to a regional synchronized swim meet today at Canada Games Aquatic Centre.

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca


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