Koko Urata takes 17th in Phase III swim competition

JDHS sophomore falls short of qualifying for final U.S. junior national team try-out

Posted: Sunday, December 04, 2005

Koko Urata's dream of making the U.S. Junior Synchronized Swimming team came to a halt in Portland, Ore.

Urata finished 17th out of 25 junior competitors at the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Association Phase III Junior National Team Trials held Nov. 18-20. The Juneau-Douglas High School sophomore qualified for the event by finishing 17th out of 55 competitors in the Phase II competition back on Oct. 29.

While Urata was judged on specific movements and figures in the water during Phase II, the focus shifted in the Phase III competition.

Urata was given less than a month to memorize an arduous 3-minute, 20-second routine and perform it four times in front of the judges.

"When I watched other people, I knew I could do it in my head but I would get nervous," Urata said. "With each person going, they felt so relieved after being finished. I remember the last swim and I was like, 'In three minutes it's going to be over. I don't even care, I just want it to be over.'"

In preparation for the trials, she practiced with the Walnut Creek Aquanauts in California.

During practice Urata discovered that this particular routine would prove especially challenging.

"It was a harder routine and with a lot of hard underwater time," Urata said. "In California, a couple girls fainted doing it. It's not an easy routine to swim."

After practicing the routine, Urata then performed the routine twice by herself in front of the judges. Following the two solo performances, the judges then place the girls in groups by their scores for a joint performance. The judges then score everyone again and mix up the groups by similar scores for the final test.

Unlike the showy, performance style of synchronized swimming, the trials featured everyone wearing the same uniform and performing to the same music.

"Everybody had to wear a black suit and a white cap and have a number," Urata said. "It's not like other meets where you dress up and have headpieces. You can have facial expressions, but other than that it's the same routine and every girl has to swim it four times, so I'm sure the judges got annoyed at the music."

Urata fell three places shy of the next round. The top 14 at Phase III moved on to April's U.S. Junior Nationals in Minneapolis, Minn.

The 15-year-old can now take a brief break from competitive synchronized swimming. Her and her teammate on the Juneau Aurora Knights, Sarah Felix, will be practicing their duet for the opening of the new season in March.

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at sports@juneauempire.com

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