C. Springs sychronized swimmers advance to final phase of national trials

Miramar’s Daniella Ramirez hopes to take her synchronized swimming talents to the national level.

The 14-year-old Ramirez, a member of the Coral Springs Aquacades, participated in the recent third phase of the U.S. Junior (12-under) and 13-15 National Synchronized Swim USA Trials for the Pan American Championships at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.

Ramirez, the 10th-ranked swimmer in the country, and four of her Aquacades teammates move on to the final phase of the trials April 10 at the Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa, Ariz.

“It is pretty tough,” said Ramirez, a synchronized swimmer for the past eight years. “I would say on a scale from 1 to 10, it is an 11.”

Ramirez, an eighth-grader at Glades Middle School, said making the national team would be huge.

“If you make it on the national team, that is pretty big,” said Ramirez, who competed at nationals last year and finished 16th. The top 12 advance. “It’s been my whole life, and this year I am pretty confident.”

Ramirez will be joined in Mesa by Miramar’s Paola Inestroza, 12; Davie’s Andrea Roman, 11; Miami Lakes’ Melanie Estrada, 12; and Palm Coast’s Paige Arizaga, 14. The five Aquacades swimmers are the only Floridians to compete in the Arizona event.

The top juniors and 13-15 year olds will represent the United States at the 2016 UANA Pan American Synchronized Swimming Championships this summer in Israel (13-15 age group) and Puerto Rico (juniors).

The Aquacades, with about 35 total athletes, placed the first Colombian-American, Gabriela Ospina, on the U.S. national junior team that took the gold medals in Canada in 2014. Ospina, 12, of Miramar, was the program’s first swimmer to make a national team.

The Coral Springs Aquacades are recognized as one of the top teams not only in the state but also nationally. The program took three bronze medals at age group nationals last year, including Ospina’s third-place finish in figures among 300 swimmers.

The local program started in 2001, and Ashley Johnson joined the group as their coach in 2008.

Synchronized swimming is a combination of swimming, dance and gymnastics. Swimmers perform a synchronized routine of elaborate moves (either solos, duets, trios or teams) in the water, accompanied by music. The sport requires strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside down under the water.

“The sport is quite intense,” Johnson said. “You definitely have to do a tremendous amount of work to make it look effortless.”

Johnson said her athletes have a chance to make the national teams for their age groups.

“I am extremely proud of all five of the girls,” she said. “I know that we have some great talent here in South Florida. After going through the process with Gabby [Ospina], I knew that all five of the girls who committed to trying out would at least make it to the final round.”

However, this is where the Aquacades finalists have to step up their game.

“A new routine has to be performed for the final phase, which the girls will have to learn from video,” Johnson said. “The national team is a big difference, because on top of what you do at the club [level], those girls spend five to six hours a week doing strength training, flexibility, endurance … because these kids are tops in the country.”

Johnson said her girls have a shot at success in Mesa.

“The chances are good, but I will say it will be very tough,” she said. “There are good teams in California, and in the Connecticut and Boston area, so it is going to be very close, and they only take the top 10. Places 7, 8 and 9 can be less than one-tenth of a point apart.”

Inestroza, a seventh-grader at Somerset Academy of Pembroke Pines, has been competing for six years. She hopes the third time is the charm in terms of making it on to the national team.

“It is a huge pleasure to have reached this point and be able to train with these girls,” Inestroza said. “It is pretty cool to be here with kids from around the country because you get to learn things from them.”

Last year, Inestroza finished 11th in the 12-under national trials, just one spot from being selected to the national team. This year, she moved up to the 13-15 age group.

“This year is a new experience because it is a new division with older girls,” Inestroza said. “I am 12, and I am competing against girls who are 13 to 15. And most of the girls here are 15, so it is more of a learning experience for me.”

When she is underwater, there is one major thing on her mind.

“I am thinking, ‘I really need to breathe,’ ” she said with a smile. “It is really grueling. It demands a lot of attention and a lot of sacrifice.”

For information, visit www.coralsprings.aquacades.org

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/fl-cnsp-centerbr-0214-20160216-story.html

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