On Nov. 17, Canadian University Artistic Swimming League (CUASL) teams gathered at Memorial Pool to compete in the 2018 McGill Invitational. Universities competed in solo, duet, and team events while a panel of judges evaluated swimmers on artistic impression, execution, and difficulty. Though the scores from the annual event do not count towards the teams’ national rankings, the friendly competition set high standards for the upcoming competitive season. McGill’s novice team placed first in the novice competition, and the white team, one of McGill’s two varsity-level teams, took first place in the team finals.
In the team finals, the McGill white team swam a graceful and energetic routine to a medley of Whitney Houston songs and earned a combined score of 71.47. Lindsay Duncan, McGill Varsity artistic swimming team head coach, expressed her overall satisfaction with the team’s performance.
“I feel really positive,” Duncan said. “We had a great meet [….] I had high expectations because everybody has been looking really good in practice leading into this competition. I think everybody really put good work in today [and] pulled off really good performances.”
The invitational was an opportunity for McGill swimmers to show fans what the team has been working on thus far. For many of the athletes on the novice team, the season opener was the first performance of their university athletic careers. First-year artistic swimmer Leah Birch, who competed in the novice team and solo competitions, spoke of the united, supportive team environment that she has experienced in her first season of artistic swimming at McGill.
“It’s such a family,” Birch said. “[Though there are] three teams within the McGill synchronized swimming [program], it’s not divided by teams. Everyone is friends with everyone.”
The invitational was the only time this season that the Martlets will compete in home water. For novice team swimmer Paulina Piankova, it was enlivening to perform in front of a crowd of familiar faces.
“It’s really exciting because we get to invite our family [and] close friends to cheer us on,” Piankova said. “We know the pool well, we are comfortable in this pool, and seeing the people that support us is amazing for sure. Also, this was an invitational, so it was a friendlier kind of environment rather than an actual competition where it’s a little bit more stressful.”
The Martlets will next compete at the CUASL Eastern Canadian Meet at Université de Sherbrooke on Jan. 26. In the meantime, Duncan hopes to polish the team’s presentation and technique.
“Our swims today weren’t perfect,” Duncan said. “They were really thoughtful [and] really focused. You could see that the girls were really thinking about the corrections they have been getting from their coaches at practice, but, next, we have to layer in the finesse, bring in more energy, bring in more power, make sure that we can be performing everything, and make it look effortless.”
Moment of the meet:
The white team entered the pool to Whitney Houston’s “Somebody to Love,” with a theatrical dance routine.
“[Our typical training schedule is] crazy. We have lots of training. I am doing an extra routine [….] The standard team schedule is three times a week, and then you add an extra practice a week [….] Some people come in six days a week to the pool.” -Paulina Piankova on the team’s preparation leading up to this meet.
A previous version of this article stated that the Eastern Canadian Championships were taking place at Laurentian University. In fact, they are taking place at Université de Sherbrooke on Jan. 26. A previous version of this article also stated that Leah Birch took part in novice duet and novice solo competitions. In fact she took part in novice team and novice solo competitions. The Tribune regrets these errors.