Another Ohio State athlete, synchronized swimmer Emma Baranski, has made a splash in the national circuit, as the junior won the solo national title during the U.S. Collegiate Championships.
But this was not Baranski’s first brush with collegiate success. Last season, the OSU synchronized swimming team, which finished in second place this year, won the team title for the 29th time. The feelings following the victories, Baranski said, are different.
“With team, you’re working together with seven other girls, so it’s amazing to get the team title,” Baranski said. “But as solo, it’s a lot more pressured because everyone’s eyes are right on you. Individually, it felt really good, and I was proud of myself just getting through it.”
OSU coach Holly Vargo-Brown’s sentiments mirrored Baranski’s, saying that the sense of pride she receives from coaching an individual champion versus a team champion has its differences.
“We are fortunate in that last year we had a team title, and we didn’t have an individual one,” Vargo-Brown said. “I think this year to have done that is some extra pride because in the midst of everything not necessarily going Ohio State’s way, to know that this person that worked so hard was rewarded, I think that was extra special.”
In addition to the second-place team finish, the Buckeyes also placed second in the duets and had two trios tie for third.
Baranski, who dabbled in figure skating and dance before becoming involved in synchronized swimming, is studying arts management with minors in dance and business. She said hopes to own a dance studio one day.
A desire to participate in a team sport pushed the Hamden, Connecticut, native toward synchronized swimming, but she said her dance background has helped her in solo routines.
“In the team routine, you’re swimming a lot sharper, and your goal is to be synchronized with everyone else. With a solo performance, you’re trying to be one with music almost,” she said. “From the very beginning of when you start to train a solo, you’re training almost a story and an emotional piece.
“It’s more of a dance routine in the water.”
The Buckeyes’ coaching staff assigned a primary coach for Baranski to help her build a bond with the choreography. That, alongside Baranski’s work ethic and skill set, is what Vargo-Brown said she believes helped the junior to find success.
“Emma is amazing. She’s a very hard worker, and she really brings a passion to whatever part of the synchronized swimming that she’s working on,” Vargo-Brown said. “Because she is a dancer, she has really been able to improve on the expression that she brings to the performance, which I really think has helped her achieve the success that she has.”
While synchronized swimmers are rewarded for making their routines look effortless, Vargo-Brown said she does not want the athleticism of the swimmers to go unnoticed.
“Synchronized swimming is not what you see in the movies or the renditions of people making fun of it; these are athletes, and they train like athletes,” said Vargo-Brown, a former OSU synchronized swimmer who is in her fourth season at the helm. “They lift weights, they’re in the water and they can’t touch the bottom, they’re holding their breath and they really do have to be in the most-fit shape possible to accomplish all of that.”
The level of work that goes into synchronized swimming is not lost on Baranski, who said that staying ahead of the competition is the hardest part. With a dream to participate in Cirque du Soleil’s synchronized swimming show in Las Vegas, she knows it won’t come easy.
“It’s pretty competitive and it’s very international. You have the best talent from all over the world coming to Cirque du Soleil, so the competition is first,” Baranski said. “You really can’t stop training, it’s just go, go, go all the time.”