Ohio Synchro Programs Form 'All-Star' Team For Pan Ams

July 27, 2018, 12:58 p.m. (ET)

Two Ohio synchro clubs have put together a temporary ‘all-star’ team to compete at the UANA Pan American Artistic Swimming Championships in California next month.

Four athletes each from the Cincinnati Synchrogators and the Ohio Coralinas in Columbus have formed the Ohio Elite Team. The swimmers will compete in the 13-15 age group at the international championships in Riverside, Calif., Aug. 6-11.

It’s a great example of collaboration between two teams that are typically competitors all season, to come together so they can do something bigger,” said Colleen Pema, a coach and team administrator for the Corlainas. “It’s very exciting in a smaller sport like ours to see a collaboration like this between two competitors.”

Pema said the idea for the team came when she was looking to grow synchro in the Midwest. Former Coralinas director Denise Shively suggested forming a club option team to compete at a higher level event like the Pan American Championships.

So Pema approached Virginia Jasontek, the coach of the Synchrogators and a past president of USA Synchro, who agreed with the idea.

“We decided that since the two clubs are in close proximity, that would be a great start. And we took four athletes from each 13-15 age group team, put them together and we’ll see what they can do at the UANA Pan Am Championships,” Pema said. “Because of Ginny’s support and the two clubs’ passion for trying to get more exposure for the Midwest clubs, we put together this team.

“It’s exactly like an all-star team, and the swimmers are honored to be selected.”

Four athletes each from the Cincinnati Synchrogators and Ohio Coralinas were named to the team. Those athletes are Madi Almond (Synchrogators), Allison Burns (Synchrogators), Madelyn Ehrhardt (Synchrogators), Katie Price (Synchrogators), Talia Lopresti (Coralinas), Lilly Ortiz (Coralinas), Mairin Pema (Coralinas) and Carissa Schroeder (Coralinas).

The coaches are Virginia Jasontek (team leader) and Bethany Young from the Synchrogators, and Aliaksandra Romankova and Colleen Pema (team administrator) from the Coralinas.

The idea for the team was made in January, and by May the club option for Pan Ams was accepted. But the temporary team couldn’t practice together until the competitive season was over in June.

“Right after Junior Olympics we started assembling some pool space. Half of the weekends we’re training in Cincinnati and half the weekends we’re training in Columbus. But that only got us about four weekends to get together before the championships itself,” Pema said. “So we’re really working hard to put this together. The girls are incredibly dedicated. They gave up what would be their time off, and the parents rescheduled family vacations. Financially and timewise, it’s a great sacrifice for the families and the swimmers.”

The coaches decided the new team would swim to a routine the Coralinas had just finished, and the swimmers from the Synchrogators learned it in almost a night.

“They reviewed video and land drill tapes for an entire week, and when we came together those girls already had a good sense of what the counts were and what the choreography was,” Pema said. “And they were so focused that probably the first night that we met, by the end they pretty much had a good handle on all the choreography, and now we’re just working on execution and synchronization.”

The Ohio Elite Team will be competing against the best of the best from other nations, teams that have been practicing together for two years instead of a month. But Pema said this squad knows what it’s up against and can’t wait to show off what synchro swimming from the Midwest can do.

“They’re very excited. They know that the level of competition is against national team squads, people who are the best in their country at this sport,” she said. “The amount of dedication for people who choose to do that, to go against the best of the best, knowing that they’re coming from a different level, is incredible. They want to show up and do their absolute best and have people appreciate the hard work that they went through, and the short period of work they went through.”

Although this team will compete in just one event together, Pema said she’d like to explore other age groups and club options for future international events, and even possibly add athletes from Indiana and Michigan.

“We’re just trying to elevate the Midwest’s exposure in our sport,” she said. “I think the sport is small enough that collaboration between two different clubs, coming together and trying to make something special happen, I absolutely recommend it. Especially since it’s been such a positive experience already.”