After waiting patiently for the other 10 teams to perform their routines, the McGill University White team froze into a tableau at the edge of the water, listened to the roar from the packed bleachers, and dove into the Memorial Pool.One, two, then three Martlets submerged gracefully, and fanned out into a pyramid formation to the driving beat and animal cries of A Tribe Called Red’s “Electric Pow Wow Drum.”
The routine was a tightly synchronized show of technical flips, upside-down pirouettes, and splashing legs. As the McGill Red team members cheered their fellow teammates on from the sidelines, the judges announced the overall score, 68.66—good enough to edge the impressive University of Ottawa Garnet team for first place in the team competition.
Though the McGill Invitational Synchronized Swimming meet does not count towards national rankings, it is an important opportunity for teams to take their temperatures going forward. For the Martlets, it’s an exciting chance to show off their prowess in front of their home crowd.
“It’s really helpful to see what the other teams are teams are putting together,” said Lindsay Duncan, coach of the victorious White team. “It’s also a great motivator for us because our season is quite long before we have our first competition that really counts, so this is nice just to have something to look forward to in the fall semester.”
The McGill squad dominated every event, and if they were still thinking about their heartbreaking loss to the Queen’s Gaels at the 2012 Canadian University Synchronized Swim League (CUSSL) Championship, it didn’t show. The upset snapped a near-historic streak of eight consecutive titles for the team, but the Martlets have rebounded stronger than ever, reclaiming the Geraldine Dubrule Trophy in 2013 and reasserting themselves atop the Canadian synchronized swimming standings.
After the meet, Duncan said she was pleased with sophomore swimmer Stacy Lee, whose Lion King-themed solo routine received a sparkling 67.00 from the judges, but reserved her highest praise for the McGill White team.
“They had a lot of energy,” Duncan said. “I feel like one thing that stood out was that they really swam well together as a team. You [can] tell that they’re having fun doing it, and that makes a big difference in how you feel when you’re watching it.”
Despite the strong showing, Duncan made it clear that the team still had a lot to improve on before Nationals in February.
“Our big tricks weren’t quite their best today—that’s one thing we want to make sure we can really nail by the time the other competitions come,” Duncan said. “We’re [also] only swimming half our routines right now, so when it comes to the next competitions, endurance is going to be a factor.”
While McGill blew the rest of the competition out of the water, the visiting teams managed to dazzle with inventive costumes and on-point music selections. University of Ottawa stole the show on the fashion front, with its swimsuit designs ranging from printed tuxedo to tasteful ’80s aerobics aesthetic. Musically, the competition featured a healthy dose of ’90s jams, symphonic arrangements, and EDM bangers.
While the heavy electronic sounds of LMFAO’s “Shots” worked surprisingly well for John Abbott College’s A team, who featured synchronized selfies in its routine to the delight of the crowd, a similar choice backfired on the Queen’s University Yellow team, who failed to execute an ambitious flip to the drop of Dillon Francis and DJ Snake’s trap remix of Lil Jon’s “Get Low”.
The McGill synchronized swimming team will face its first real test of the season on Jan. 25 at Queen’s before heading to Nationals in February. When asked if the team was expecting to defend its title at Nationals, Duncan replied humbly.
“We’re hoping so, very much, and this meet today […] shows us that we’ll definitely be in the running.”