All In Sync


Olivia Griffith and Maddie Salata

Maneuvering as one in multiple swift movements, captivating the audience. Pushing through the gallons of water, all the while to the rhythm of music. These are things a synchronized swimmer needs to think every time they practice a routine.

Junior Barbara Garcia-Stam is a synchronized swimmer who has

won several impressive medals for her part in these competitions.

Synchronized swimming is a sport in which members of a team put on a show where they perform identical movements or routines to music. It’s a cross between dance and gymnastics and while they are performing, the swimmers are unable to touch the bottom of the pool.

Since fourth grade, Garcia-Stam has been taking part in this sport. She first started after seeing a flyer for a test clinic she and her mom happened to get in the mail, as it was part of the school district, so it was sent around to everybody that went to the school.

There are 20 girls on Garcia-Stam’s team, around 10 or so of whom are within her age group, as well as five young swimmers in a synchronized swimming class, preparing for a chance to be on the team. Levels go from novice to the higher age-group division. According to her coach, Garcia-Stam is one of the top swimmers in the 16-17 age-group division.

Most of the girls go to Mount Prospect High School, but there are girls like Garcia-Stam who go different schools such as Warren, LHS, and Barrington. Both the coach and practices are in Des Plaines, where practices are held at the local YMCA.

There are many aspects to synchronized swimming. “The athleticism, the musicality, the friendships. I can’t just pick one thing,” said one of Garcia-Stam’s close friends from the team, Alice Kenny, when asked what her favorite thing about synchronized swimming was.

The team trains year round except for two weeks in late August. Competition season runs from February to July. “We are in the thick of our competition season now and every meet is a qualifying meet for nationals this summer in North Carolina,” said Garcia-Stam’s head coach, Patty Moyer.

The team has one to two competitions a month. The two most important competitions they compete in are regionals (midwest region) and nationals. “We usually place second or first for regionals, and then the top three go to nationals. For nationals, we usually get top twenty,” stated Garcia-Stam.

During their practices on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, they work to prepare routines. “We place significant emphasis on our warm-up, which is the the first 45 minutes of our practice,” said Moyer. This helps to keep injuries from occurring as well as to prepare them for their coming practices and meets. According to Kenny, practices are exhausting but meets are stressful.

They train for each meet by practicing their routine with music. They then practice it without goggles so they are able to do the routine without having to use their eyes because when they are performing, they are unable to wear goggles. It is necessary to hear music for each performance; there are speakers both outside and under the water, so onlookers and performers are both able to hear the music. At meets, the coaches are there to help give constructive criticism without making the girls more nervous than they already are.

For each group they compete with, the girls get a new uniform. This consists of a suit, nosepiece (sometimes), and hairpiece. The girls can either compete in a team, solo, duet, or trio. This year, Garcia-Stam is doing a duet with Kenny. As of now, their duet is to a mashup of an instrumental version of “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as well as a remix of “Heart Upon My Sleeve” by Avicii.

The team as a whole is very close. “It’s hard not to be friends when we travel together all the time and it’s a very up-close and personal sport,” stated Kenny. Although many live quite a distance from each other, they still find time to get together and hang out once in a while.

Many of the girls on the team have been doing the sport for nearly five-plus years. Synchronized swimming is the main sport for many of them, however many also participate on the swim team and other sports.

As well as synchronized swimming, Garcia-Stam participates in swimming at LHS in the fall and Spanish Club year-round. Doing multiple activities can make it hard for her to maintain her grades; however, she says her “coaches are really lenient. Like, if [she] has a big test, they’ll let [her] stay home and study. Or they’ll let [her] leave early if [she] has a lot of homework.” She also used to do dance, which helps a lot with her routines.

Since practices are  only three or so times a week for two hours (four hours on the weekends), they generally don’t interfere with schoolwork. “Because we don’t have practice that often throughout the week, I can get stuff done earlier,” said Garcia-Stam.

According to her coach and two friends, Garcia-Stam is one of the hardest workers at practice. Although “she has been plagued by shoulder and back injuries for the past year, she has learned to adapt her warm up to not tax certain muscle groups in her body.  She also puts in extra time away from the pool working on her core muscles, flexibility and cardio,” stated Moyer.

As well as being a hard worker, Garcia-Stam is also noted as “having a big heart, always helping others and never putting anyone else down. She never gets frustrated and I’ve never seen her raise her voice at anyone before,” Sasha Boudko, a senior at Warren Township High School, said.

Her coach noted that Garcia-Stam is quiet, but an amazing power source for the team. She also talked about how Garcia-Stam is “is very coachable, which is every coach’s dream.”