Osseo’s Synchro Gators Swim to Their Own Beat

The Synchro Gators are ending another successful season. The synchronized swimming program that teaches Osseo school students the sport continues to make the synchro legacy in Minnesota proud. And with the state tournament approaching, it’s the best time of the year for the Gators.

The sport is far from what meets the eye. Apart from requiring proficient swimming skills, team members memorize routines done alone, in pairs or groups (imagine a gymnastics routine, but underwater). And, there’s a fair amount of style mixed in, from suits and headpieces created for routines, to carefully selected music. The coaches are responsible for writing the routines, and most are former swimmers for the district.
One of those former swimmers is coach Michelle Myers, whose sister encouraged her and head coach Rey Kurpiers to join the team. Both coaches started synchro swimming in 2003 and even swam a duet together when Myers was in seventh grade. Now they devote time outside of their work days to helping young athletes compete at the state championship level.

What makes the team interesting is the diverse athletes it attracts, Myers says. “For me, I was never good at sports, and at synchro I was. It’s not necessarily ‘cool,’ so it attracts a lot of down-to-earth people.”

But don’t mistake “uncool” for easy. Myers calls the sport really difficult, but not without its rewards. “It’s cool because it’s unique, and it’s cool to be able to compete and go to state and feel good about yourself. For other sports, you have to be elite,” she says.

The Osseo team of 30-to-35 athletes practices six days a week during the season, and has meets typically once a week. The meets consist of routines of figures, which are single moves performed individually and scored by judges.

Kurpiers finds the coach-intensive nature of synchro to be a unique attribute of the sport. With much of the action happening below water, swimmers themselves don’t often know when something looks quite right from dry land. Further, the sport starts in middle school and goes through high school, allowing for lasting connections among team members.

“What we do is incredibly impressive. It’s so fun, and we grow so much. I still use the skills I used [then] and have the body awareness,” says Kurpiers, who had an easier time in consequent physical therapy because of the body awareness she gained from the sport.

Confidence is another trait the athletes gain. “It’s so rewarding when you see the young girls, who [at the beginning], are unsure about themselves and not super confident,” Myers says. Since typically no one on the team has experience in the sport, every athlete starts at the baseline, learning from the beginning.

The team ended the 2017 season with a tied eighth place spot at State. While always striving for a higher ranking, competition among the Minnesota synchro community is anything but icy, and the team’s camaraderie keeps athletes and alumni returning season after season.

“That’s really why I do it,” says Kurpiers. “Sheer love.”