The Juneau Aurora Knights synchronized swimming club opened the spring competition season in stunning fashion last week.
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The Juneau-based team of 16-year-olds Kimiko "Koko" Urata and Sarah Felix captured second-place overall at the 2006 United State Synchronized Swimming Association Junior Western Zone Championships at Walnut Creek, Calif., on March 9-12.
The tandem competed in the duet competition, where two swimmers perform a routine to music.
With the finish, Urata and Felix qualified for the Junior Synchronized Swimming Championships in Minneapolis on April 4-9.
The Juneau Aurora Knights' duet placed second out of 39 teams and narrowly missed out on first place. Urata and Felix finished with a combined score of 76.661, a scant .207 points behind the winning team of Caitlin Ellis and Molly Knight from Walnut Creek.
Urata and Felix earned the second-highest marks in the figure category, in which judges scored the Aurora Knights' routine on technical merit. They also took third overall in the freestyle category, which tracks overall artistic impression.
Urata took fifth place out of 139 competitors in the solo synchronized swimming category to qualify for Junior Nationals. Her teammate, Felix, placed 20th overall.
Urata finished with the seventh-highest technical scores in the solo competition.
Based on her strong performances at Walnut Creek, Urata was named Western Zone Athlete of the Year at the competition.
The Western Zone draws the best 14-18 year old athletes from Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Hawaii, Alaska and California.
The team is coached by Jami Eistetter.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.