On Nov. 18, the McGill Martlets synchronized swimming team hosted the McGill Invitational, bringing together eight universities in competition. The meet served as the season opener for the Canadian University Synchro Swim League (CUSSL), where novice and expert-level swimmers challenged each other in solo, duet, and team performances.
Although the results don’t count toward the national title—which McGill has won 14 times in the past 16 years—the meet serves as the perfect opportunity for veterans and novices alike to practice their boosts, verticals, and “ballet legs.”
“Early in the season, we’re really focused on getting [the team] up to the technical level that we want,” Head Coach Lindsay Duncan said. “Later on in the year, it’s about polish [….We’re] still in the midst of choreographing the routines […] but, I mean, everyone came out, and I think [we] had a nice performance, so we’re feeling really optimistic about the rest of the season.”
Each team was assessed by a panel of four judges, who evaluated the swimmers’ artistic impressions and technical manoeuvres. Overall, McGill fared well, with the novice team scoring an impressive 51.833 in comparison to McGill’s two expert-level teams—Red and White—who had respective scores of 58.667 and 64.999.
Despite McGill’s boastful lung capacity and pop-ups, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees established themselves as McGill’s chief rivals, as both teams blew all other competition out of the water. The Martlets came out on top in the expert solo competition, with third-year swimmer Flordespina Dodds placing first. McGill’s novice team also secured a win over Ottawa, triumphing by a close 1.2-point margin.
The McGill Invitational provides an opportunity for newer swimmers to experience a structured competition environment. For Katharine Callahan, a second-year swimmer with the novice team, the Invitational was only her second-ever competition. Ultimately, the meet was nerve-wracking, but it allowed Callahan and her teammates—many of whom are new to the sport—to get in sync and find their rhythm.
“We were all a bit nervous, I think,” Callahan said. “For some of us, it was only our first competition [….] We took all our nervous energy and just put out a good performance. I think we were just able to be really sharp and precise and we travelled really well.”
It’s still early in the season for the Martlets, and they’ve got three months to practice and perfect their routines before heading to the CUSSL National Championships in mid-February. For second-year swimmer Jessica Henry, the competition was the foundation for success to come.
“I think we had a really great swim, it was sharp,” Henry said. “Obviously, there [are] a few things we can work on, but it’s a good platform to build the rest of the year off of [….] I think we all have a very good work ethic and work well together. Everyone comes to practice happy and they leave happy, and it’s a really cohesive group.”
Moment of the meet:
McGill’s White team executed two boosts perfectly, one of which entailed a full backward flip.
“It’s one thing to start the choreography, and it’s another thing to work together as a team and figure out who needs to be where, and when, and how to swim [with] all eight people as one person.” — Second-year Martlet swimmer Jessica Henry
Three minutes is the amount of time an average synchro swimmer can hold their breath underwater.