The pools of McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion provided a watery platform to allow fire to battle with ice.
For the first time this season and the last time at home, the Ohio State synchronized swimming team performed its routines at the Jessica Beck Memorial Saturday. Hosting Miami (Ohio), Michigan and Ohio University, OSU proved to be in a league of its own, sweeping first place in all four categories as well as first place overall with 93 points. The next closest was Michigan, who finished 46 points behind OSU.
With eight swimmers apiece — the maximum number allotted for team performance — the OSU Scarlet Team and the Gray Team portrayed the two elements of temperature. Donned in red, the Gray Team’s choreography and music portrayed fire, while the Scarlet Team sported blue and took on ice.
The Scarlet Team, consisting of seniors Chelsea Aton, Yuliya Maryanko and Lauren Nicholson, juniors Katie Spada and Khadija Zanotto and freshmen Emma Baranski, Elizabeth Davidson and Lorraine Hack, placed first in the team division with a total of 88.1 points, while the Gray Team, composed of seniors Julia and Natalie Gaylard, juniors Cory Justice, Heidi Liou and Emily Muma and freshmen Alexa Aton, Jasmine Pulido and Natalie Huibregtse, took home second with a score of 84.05.
The division of OSU’s varsity synchronized swimming team into two squads is based upon skill, with those athletes more refined in technicality and execution placed in Scarlet. However, Chelsea Aton, who serves as the Scarlet Team’s captain, and Natalie Gaylord, the captain who swims on the Gray Team, agreed the sub-squads make for friendly competition.
“It’s really cool because we get to cheer each other on at practice and spur each other on every day, and I wouldn’t say there was any rivalry between us, but it is like a friendly competition, and we want to push each other and also encourage each other,” Chelsea Aton said after the meet.
Although Scarlet and Gray secured the top spots in their first performances of the routines, coach Holly Vargo-Brown named endurance as a working point for the remainder of the season.
“The routine is new, it doesn’t automatically come to you — the timing, the pattern changes, the lifts, making sure all of us are coordinated on the same effort to make sure they are super high,” Vargo-Brown said. “The Scarlet’s first lift was ‘wow’-high, super good, but it just takes time. It takes consistent practice every day next to the people around you, so it’ll come.”
OSU swimmers also took the top spots in the trio, duet and solo divisions. Davidson, Maryanko and freshman Morgan Boneberg placed first in trios with 87.15 points, Baranski and Hack won duets with a score of 84.27 and Maryanko took first in solos with 89.9 points.
Maryanko was one of seven seniors honored before the meet as part of senior night. Though the season is fresh in start and there is much time left before her final performance with the Buckeyes, Maryanko said the team’s support system is unmatched.
“Right from the first day, I felt like I had 25 sisters,” Maryanko said. “I feel like an entire unit. We don’t feel a separation between two teams. We practice together, we always support each other no matter what, and even if one team has a day off and the other has practice, the team will come and support them.”
However, the meet in itself, in memorial of former Buckeye synchronized swimmer Jessica Beck who died in her sleep Sept. 15, 2005, before her senior season, held a special place in Vargo-Brown’s heart, she said.
“She was one of my swimmers at the time,” Vargo-Brown said of Beck, who was part of the Gray Team. “What’s cool about Jessica is that she continues to remain, in her passing she has continued to remain a part of this team in spirit. It’s just really nice to have been her coach and now still coaching and having an entirely new group of people who don’t know her, have never met her, we still know that her spirit has lived on and impacted the team, which is really, really a wonderful thing to see.”
The team is set to compete next in Richmond, Va., Saturday.
Correction: A prior headline of this article had Jessica Beck’s last name misspelled.