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Ohio State synchronized swim team builds upon existing legacy

The Ohio State Synchronized Swimming team won its third National Championship in a row on Apr. 6. Credit: Courtesy of OSU Athletics

After the Ohio State synchronized swim team’s win at the U.S. Collegiate Nationals in San Antonio, Texas, head coach Holly Vargo-Brown woke up with next year’s season on her mind.

Ohio State added another national title to the team’s list of accomplishments, notching its 32nd title in 42 years, its fifth in the past seven seasons since Vargo-Brown has taken the helm, and its third straight championship.  

In a season full of trials and new faces, Ohio State pulled off a rare three-peat with its third straight title, something the head coach did not seem to be confident in.

“There was a lot of adversity with illnesses and injuries, and every day they just came into the pool and just worked hard to try to get better,” Vargo-Brown said. “I don’t think any of us were sure what the end result was going to be.”

Associate head coach Suzanna Hyatt believed winning this national title was possible from the beginning of the season, especially with the help of the freshman class.

As one of nine freshmen joining the team, Nikki Dzurko made an impact on the team at the U.S. Collegiate Nationals, becoming a solo, duet and team champion.

“I wasn’t expecting to be such a big contributor my freshman year, and I’m really glad I got to,” Dzurko said.

Vargo-Brown said she and Hyatt did a good job of pulling the best out of their student athletes, no matter their level of experience, which resulted in strong performances and ultimately a championship.

“Anything is possible if you believe in the people around you and you believe in yourself and you put the work in,” Vargo-Brown said.

Senior Wenjing Deng has also played a vital role, putting four years of hard work and dedication into the program.

Unlike Dzurko, Deng had the opportunity to be a part of the synchronized swimming team that won nationals in 2017 and 2018, but called this season the most memorable championship run.

With increased responsibility as a senior, Deng had to contribute more to choreography, bringing the team together and setting an example for the freshman class.

“It was the most rewarding experience out of the past three other years,” Deng said.

Throughout the season, Hyatt said she watched all 23 women learn how to be a team.

“At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of individuals,” Hyatt said. “It was so impressive to watch them become one team over the course of the season.”

Vargo-Brown said when you have a mixed group of people, like the one the synchronized swimming team had, it takes time to create a cohesive unit.

She said she didn’t know if the team could come together in such a short amount of time, although their success did not happen overnight.

“All of the work that the coaches and student-athletes have done in the past decades have laid the foundation for it to be possible to go back-to-back-to-back,” Hyatt said.

The coaches and team are continuing to build up the synchronized swimming program at Ohio State, and Hyatt thinks it’s possible to win another national title.

“We are just continuing to lay one brick after brick in the road that was started 50 years ago,” Hyatt said.

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