Competitions await Knights

Slew of meets ahead for Juneau's accomplished synchronized swimmers

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2007

With competitions on the horizon, the Juneau Aurora Knights Synchronized Swimming Team has logged plenty of hours in the pool to get ready.

Four swimmers will head to Whitehorse, Yukon, for a meet this weekend while duet Koko Urata and Sarah Felix prepare to make the U.S. Junior National Team.

Aurora Knights Bernadette Osborne, Elizabeth Stretter-Zenk, Dana Bogatko and Addie Gonwa will compete in a novice and intermediate competition in Whitehorse, Yukon, on April 21. Streeter-Zenk, Bogatko and Gonwa will compete in Tier 2 while 13-year-old Osborne will take on other athletes in the more competitive Tier 1.

Bogatko and Gonwa also will take part in the Western Regional Tournament on May 19 and 20 in Portland, Ore. The top four swimmers in this tournament will qualify for the Age Group Nationals. If Bogatko and Gonwa are successful, they would be following the footsteps of teammates Urata and Felix.

Last year, Urata and Felix won the 2006 Age Group Nationals duet competition. Urata also won first place in the solo figures' competition.

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Urata and Felix are now training for the U.S. Junior National Team Trials in Santa Clara, Calif., on May 26 and 27. The duet will then head to Honolulu for an international competition in July.

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While Felix and Urata train about seven hours per week, their competition typically trains that long in a day and are home-schooled, devoting the majority of their time to their sport.

There are only so many hours that the Aurora Knights can garner for practice due to Juneau's isolation and access to just one pool.

Urata said Juneau's isolation has its pros and cons. She added that California teams look like robots compared to the duet of herself and Felix, which has little outside exposure until the actual competitions.

Urata and Felix, both juniors at Juneau-Douglas High School, plan on competing at the collegiate level in two years.

The duet's success has been a high-point in the 10-year-history of synchronized swimming in Juneau.

The Knights were launched in 1997 when Christine Tait moved from Florida and started the synchronized swim team. Tait coached the squad until 2002, when Karen Lawfer and Chris Urata took over coaching responsibilities. They coached until 2004. Jami Eistetter became the new head coach and continues to head the Knights' program.

The Knights have eight members on their team.

They will host a show on Mother's Day, called a "A Mother's Day Spectacular." The performance is free but donations are welcome and will help with fundraising.

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