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Collegiate Stars Emerge, Teams Return

By Alyssa Jacobs | Feb. 03, 2022, 9 a.m. (ET)

It has been an energizing start for collegiate artistic swimming programs across the country, particularly the institutions that have kicked off the season with January competitions. The season culminates on March 24th at the U.S. Collegiate Championship. The Buckeyes will have the home-pool advantage this year, as the event travels to Columbus, Ohio. After a year where only three teams were permitted to compete due to COVID-19, USAAS is excited to welcome clubs and teams from across the country back to the championship.

TEAMS BEGINNING AND TEAMS RETURNING:

The collegiate landscape is looking extremely strong this season. In 2021, Wheaton, Stanford, University of Incarnate Word and Texas Woman’s University joined the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in an effort to create a conference home for the sport. This conference has allowed for increased competition during the season and has resulted in the creation of a conference championship competition. The MPSF conference championship is slated for February 12th and will serve as a great preview for the Collegiate Championship. This season will also mark the first competitive season for the new varsity program at TWU that has recruited a blended mix of international and domestic talent.

It’s not just the varsity programs that are making a comeback, the Florida Gators and the Arizona Wildcats will host meets of their own this season, welcoming teams to their campuses. The two programs have historically operated at an extremely high level and Arizona has a rich history of success at the Collegiate Championship. Additionally, Michigan appears to have one of its largest teams by numbers in recent memory. The squad traveled to Columbus in mid-January to compete against the Buckeyes. The College of William & Mary and University of Richmond have demonstrated their commitment to technique by participating in a figure meet early in the fall to kick off their seasons.

WHAT’S UP NEXT:

February is a busy month for collegiate artistic swimming. Catch some of the action at the universities below.

Jessica Beck Invitational (Columbus, Ohio) - February 5
MPSF Championship (Stanford, Calif.) - February 12-13
University of Richmond (Richmond, Va.) - February 12
College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, Va.) – February 13
University of Arizona Collegiate Open (Tucson, Ariz.) – February 18-19
Wheaton College Invitational (Norton, Mass.) – February 19
University of Florida (Gainesville, Fla.) – February 19

WHO TO WATCH

 

As programs begin to solidify their routines and rosters, it is clear there are some standout soloists on the horizon. 2019 solo champion Nikki Dzurko returned to Ohio State after training with the national team and topped the standings at the OSU v. Michigan dual meet. Former Olympic duet representative Lindi Schroeder earned high marks in her first two collegiate meets representing Stanford taking first at both competitions. UIW’s Nour Shamala recorded the second-best score at the Stanford-TWU-UIW tri-meet behind Schroeder. 

The duet category this season is extremely competitive. 2021 collegiate duet champions Jacklyn Luu and Emma Tchakmakjian of Stanford were edged by Hailee Heinrich and Nicole Goot at the Stanford meet. Dzurko and Laila Huric, 2019 champions in the category, have paired together once again after not swimming together in 2021. They narrowly bested the competition in Columbus ahead of 2020 USA Olympic duet alternate Ruby Remati and Canadian Olympian Emily Armstrong who also represent the Buckeyes. Both Huric and Luu return to collegiate artistic swimming for a fifth season and bring valuable experience to their teams as veterans. UIW’s strongest pair of Abby Remmers and Canadian Mikaelle Gauthier defeated both of Stanford duets at the tri-meet by scoring .0333 higher than Luu and Tchakmakjian. Goot and Hienrich were just .3 behind their Stanford counterparts to take third. The high-level of competition within programs will make the battle between programs incredibly intriguing to watch. 

The trio category, unique to collegiate artistic swimming, is notorious for being a category of experimentation by using different combinations of swimmers throughout the season. Ohio State’s top two trios so far include Armstrong, Remati and Cassandra Neeley and Hannah HeffernanPaige Hopper and Rachel Jager. Michigan also fielded a strong trio of Anna EfstateAnishka Taneja and Danielle Vermeer.  The trend of experimenting with the strong duet athletes in the trio category was also utilized by Stanford, with Luu and Tchakmakjian swimming with Audrey Nguyen to top the trio standings for the Stanford v. Wheaton meet. Nguyen was a member of the 2021 trio that claimed the category championship. They shook things up at the next meet, and this group took second to a new Cardinal trio of Goot, Schroeder and Ava Jih Schiff. With lots of new talent to utilize across the collegiate landscape, this category is likely to change the most between now and the collegiate championship.

The tri-meet hosted at Texas Woman's University was the team routine debut of this collegiate season. The reigning champions at Stanford showcased their dominance and earned a gold medal, just under one point ahead of UIW's top squad. UIW’s secondary team followed in third. TWU, in the program’s debut, managed to catch several spring semester international additions up to speed quickly and execute a strong performance. These three programs and the University of Wheaton will undoubtedly battle it out at the MPSF Conference Championship in February, and we hope to see more team routine debuts from the other collegiate programs as the season unfolds. 

With lots of new faces on the collegiate scene this year, teams have the opportunity to separate themselves by showing technical excellence from their individual swimmers. Abby Remmers (UIW) and Lindi Schroeder (Stanford) will be two to watch in A elements. They competed in figures both days in Texas and split the weekend, with Schroeder taking first on day two and Remmers claiming the top spot on the first day. Other notable players from this meet included Goot (Stanford), Luu (Stanford), Tchakmakjian (Stanford) and Gauthier (UIW). Ohio State swimmers scored extremely high at their figure competition, with Nikki Dzurko continuing to prove her technical excellence and earning the highest A figure score in January. Other Buckeyes that topped the standings include Heffernan, Armstrong and Hopper. The highest-scoring competitors in the B figure category included Hannah Halberg (Wheaton), Erandi Aguirre (UIW), Hannah Ray (UIW),Nia Kostadinova (UIW), Makayla Crichton (TWU), Haley Watson (OSU) and Olivia Malloy (OSU).

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Nicole Dzurko

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Jacklyn Luu

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Lindi Schroeder

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Emmanuella Tchakmakjian

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Abby Remmers

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Hannah Heffernan