Juneau-Douglas High School sophomore Koko Urata crept one step closer from becoming a member of the U.S. National Junior Synchronized Swimming team.
Urata, 15, finished in 17th place out of 55 athletes at the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Phase II Junior National Team Trials on Saturday in Walnut Creek, Calif. Urata's teammate on the Juneau Aurora Knights, Sarah Felix, finished 29th. Felix, also 15, fell .29 points shy from finishing 26th and qualifying for the competition's third phase.
"It was kind of a long day on Saturday," said Jami Eistetter, Urata and Felix's coach. "They had to do six figures on Saturday and the judges don't flash their scorecards, so they didn't know how they did until they announced the 26."
Of those 26 qualifiers, six were in the senior division. Urata and the remaining 20 competed in the junior classification.
The 20 junior qualifiers will be pared down to 14 during the Phase III competition on Nov. 18 in Portland, Ore.
For that competition, Urata must memorize and perform a 3 minute, 20 second technical routine for the judges.
If Urata makes the top 14, she will qualify for the U.S. Junior Nationals in Minneapolis, Minn., in April. National-team officials will then pick the 10 athletes who will represent the national in synchronized swimming competitions.
"It's quite challenging," Eistetter said of Phase III. "She has to swim the routine. She has to do another set of four figures and swim that routine four times. She swims it twice in a row, then based on those results, she'll team up with other swimmers of the same caliber and they have to swim it like a team."
While Felix came up short in her bid to advance through the national team trials, she did stand out in the standards competition.
Felix was one of eight athletes to receive bonus points during a standard. In synchronized swimming, a standard measures how still an athlete can maintain a leg on the water or how high she can get her legs about the pool surface.
Felix performed a perfect split on the pool's surface, with her upper-body underneath the water, to earn an extra quarter-point.
"I don't know if they knew what to expect," Eistetter said of Felix and Urata. "They had a good figure warm-up and looked good out there."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com