The Ohio State synchronized swimming team is hosting the U.S. Collegiate National Championships at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion this weekend, continuing its quest to clinch the program’s 30th overall national title.
After a solid season and winning its second consecutive U.S. Collegiate North Regional Championship, Ohio State is competing against Stanford, Arizona, Carleton, Florida, Incarnate Word, Lindenwood, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Penn State, Richmond, Stanford, William & Mary and Wright State.
The Buckeyes are looking for redemption after finishing second last year at the national championships behind Stanford, who edged them out by two points. This season, Ohio State also fell short against the Cardinal back on Feb. 18 in Palo Alto, California.
“We wanted to make sure that we worked it into our competition schedule to go out to Palo Alto and see what we have, see what they have,” OSU coach Holly Vargo-Brown said. “It was a very close competition. Even though it was a loss, I still feel good about it and that we met the purpose of going while not being afraid to take a loss.”
With an abundance of talent on Stanford’s team, reigning solo national champion OSU senior Emma Baranski will have to defend her title among some of the best including Stanford’s Claire McGovern.
“Emma is the best in the country at just pure performance and ability to make you want to watch,” Vargo-Brown said. “There is not a single swimmer in the country that matches her in that so Claire is extremely technically sound.”
Baranski will end her career where she started, at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on one of the biggest stages in synchronized swimming.
“Right now I have judges that are comparing my routine to last year’s routine,” Baranski said. “So they aren’t always comparing me to other swimmers, so I am focusing on my strengths and weaknesses just as much as the competition.”
In addition to Stanford, the Buckeyes anticipate Lindenwood and Incarnate Word to be the teams to beat as well.
“ We have seen Lindenwood who is also a strong group,” Vargo-Brown said. “So when you can see what your top competitors are, you know where your weaknesses and your strengths are. You can adjust your strategy a little bit. Unfortunately, we were not able to see Incarnate Word this year but they are a really strong team this year, great presenters.”
The last time the Buckeyes hosted the Championships in 2015, the program clinched its 29th national title, so the team will definitely have an advantage in comfortability, Vargo-Brown said.
“We train here every day,” she said. “We know what it feels like to move a certain amount or move a certain place, we can make our patterns, our choreography exactly where we want them to be. We can practice that, so that is definitely an advantage.”
Along with swimming in their own territory, the Buckeyes are also expecting a great hometown crowd to carry the momentum.
“It’s always an advantage to swim in front of a home crowd because even in synchronized swimming, Buckeye fans are amazing,” Vargo-Brown said. “I found the energy in 2015 to be electric and that just helps help the team do their very best, because they want to perform for all of these people that are supporting them so much.”
No matter who the Buckeyes face, they live by the same motto, that is focusing on what the next move is and being able to move forward from difficult times, Baranski said.
“Being able to move on from hard situations is important because no matter what, things are going to happen,” she said. “As long as we stick together as a team we should be successful. Out of all my years this is the most unified our team has ever been.”
Vargo-Brown hopes that her unified team will carry the momentum in winning the ultimate prize, a national title.
“Moving through the season you just keep pushing,” she said. “Last year we didn’t get what we wanted to do, but you don’t dwell. Hopefully what we have done next, will get us to where we want to be this year.”