Juneau synchro duo advances to Phase 3

Felix, Urata move to next level of junior national team qualifying process with their performance last weekend

Posted: Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Because two members of the Juneau Aurora Knights synchronized swimming club could do a right-side split, they moved to the next level of the junior national team qualifying process.

Sarah Felix and Kimiko "Koko" Urata, both 14-year-old freshmen at Juneau-Douglas High School, were among 29 synchronized swimmers last weekend who advanced to Phase 3 of the four-part USA Synchro junior national team qualifying process. The two Juneau synchronized swimmers were among 52 swimmers ages 14-18 attending a Phase 2 trial Friday through Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif. Phase 3 takes place Nov. 19-21 in Walnut Creek, Calif.

"We're pretty overwhelmed," Urata said Monday night. "It means a lot of hard work, but we're excited."

"We knew we'd do well, but we were not quite sure if we'd move on," Felix said. "But then, when they called our names, we were pretty excited."

In Phase 2 of the four-part process, the synchronized swimmers were scored on six figures. The two Juneau swimmers were toward the lower part of the pack, with Urata ranked 38th with a score of 65.004 points and Felix 44th with 64.377 points. The preliminary trial information said only 20 swimmers would advance to Phase 3, so it didn't appear the two Juneau girls had the scores to move on.

"They could easily have placed higher," said Juneau Aurora Knights coach Jamie Eistetter, who added that nine of the girls had also qualified for the senior national team trials which meant nine more girls were added to the qualifying process for the junior team. "There were about 12 girls in the 65-point range, so there were close to a quarter of them with similar scores."

After some clinics, the swimmers were called back to the pool so they could perform two required splits. In order to advance to Phase 3, each swimmer had to get a passing score from two of the three judges on each split. If the swimmer failed, she'd be bumped out of the junior national team qualifying process. The swimmers went in their ranked order from their figure scores.

The most difficult of the required moves was the right-side split, which is done with the swimmers' heads in the water and feet in the air. The right leg goes forward and the left leg goes back, while the hips are kept squared. Making the splits more difficult is the swimmers don't have gravity to help them, because they're inverted in the water.

"The first one (eliminated) placed 13th in the figures," Eistetter said. "When she was X'ed out, it was devastating."

"We knew they were required so we worked on them over and over, and I guess some of the other teams didn't do that," Felix said. "That was the biggest surprise."

"It was my first time ever passing my splits," Urata said.

Now that they've advanced to the next stage of the qualifying process, Eistetter said the two Juneau girls will have to learn a required technical routine for Phase 3. She said it will be the first required technical routine the swimmers have had to learn. The Phase 3 selection process is supposed to trim the list down to 14 swimmers, who will advance to a special part of the 2005 Junior National Championships in April for Phase 4 of the process.

"There's not a high chance we'll go on, so we plan to take this as a learning experience," Urata said. "There's a lot of hard work to do."

"It's unrealistic to set goals now, because we've never been this far before," Felix said. "We don't know if they'd be unreachable. We're using this as a way of getting to know what's going on. We still have another four years to go, so there's not really a lot of pressure on us. The girls who are 17 or 18 and this is their last chance are the ones with a lot of pressure."

• Charles Bingham can be reached at charles.bingham@juneauempire.com.

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