Synchronised Swimming Combo Cup 2017

During the last 12 months the world of synchronised swimming, has seen a lot of changes - one of them being the addition of the Combo Cup. This is a new national competition, open to all clubs in the UK, and applicable to various different age groups - split into two divisions to accommodate those clubs with swimmers who have achieved higher skill grades, of grade 3 or above, and a division specifically for those clubs with swimmers at Grades 21 or 2 and below.

Aqualina Synchronised Swimming Club’s head coach, Kerri Brennan, decided that this was a competition she wanted ALL her swimmers to compete in. This was a totally new and exciting experience for many of the swimmers, who have never competed at a national level before. Three teams were formed. With a team of ten (the maximum allowed to swim), aged from 13 to 18yrs, she had team one, which meant that, within that category she could enter a second team, which was another eight swimmers.  An Under 12 team of six swimmers was also assembled, with the youngest being just nine years of age. Every current swimmer in the club, regardless of ability or prior performance, was set to take part.  

Everyone was extremely excited at the prospect of competing in the first-ever Combo Cup. It was to take place in Manchester’s Aquatic Centre, and plans were in place to travel by train and stay in a hotel the night before. Naturally some wanted to go by car, as family visits were scheduled.

After lots of preparation, training and coaching, Friday 15th September was soon upon us - costumes packed, headpieces made and stacks of gelatine packed. It was a case of, Manchester here we come!

Saturday 16th September saw a 7am start in the hotel, with hair being arranged in a synchro bun, and parents mixing sachets of gelatine, to be applied to ensure that hair stayed put during the swim. It caused a stir! Other hotel guests were amazed at our 24 swimmers all getting ready for this important competition.

Security is paramount at such events, and girls and coaches were issued with their poolside passes, and parents had to queue for the spectator area.  

Off we went to our area in the changing rooms to get ready for the warm-up to take place.

The girls’ first glimpse of the pool was incredible - most had never seen a pool that big, let alone swum in one. The warm-up went ok - not the best swim-throughs, “but hey things could only get better”. The girls continued to keep warm and stretch in changing rooms, with team captains leading walk-throughs.

With parents logged on to the live score board, and the coaches also watching the live scores, it was a nerve-wracking wait. The Division 1, 13 to 18yrs category consisted of ten teams, with the Queen team (team of eight swimmers) due to swim 2nd, and the Creepy team (team of ten swimmers) to go last, 10th. Head coach Kerri secretly hoped one of the teams would medal, but just told the girls to do their best. Everyone watched, cheered and clapped the Queen team on, and the medley of Queen hits got the audience clapping. The girls swam so well, it was great to watch, and they scored a very respectable 58.5000.

The Queen team and their coach took a bow, and then went to support the other team.
 
Keeping an eye on the live scoreboard, the Queen team still maintained top spot after six swims. The girls were so excited, as with just four more swims, a medal was a strong possibility.

The Creepy team were all set for the big stage. Walking nervously up to the screened-off area to await their swim, the Creepy team had a team talk. Two more swims reaching less than 58.000 points meant the Queen team had medalled. “Let’s get Aqualina two lots of medals”. This was something head coach Kerri could only dream of. Up went the ten girls of the Creepy team. Kerri waited with baited breath as the eerie music started, and the whole pool seemed silent and mesmerized by this unique choice of music. The cartwheel into pool went well, the first lift was nailed, and the performance was as stunning as the Queen team’s. Kerri was ecstatic, “I think we’ve done this!” That was spot on. The final lift went brilliantly, and the girls exited to huge cheers and rounds of applause.

The scorer announced that the Creepy team had scored a brilliant 62.2000. Gold and silver for Aqualina! The girls all hugged and congratulated each other, with tears plentiful. The Under 12 team in awe of this level of camaraderie. The coaches were covered in gelatine and make up from the hugs they received. Not a dry eye in the Aqualina area of the changing room - this little Hertfordshire club of just 24 swimmers, who train just three hours a week, of which only two hours are in the pool, were now national champions and runners-up! Head coach Kerri, only 21 years old herself, was bursting with pride. The presentation would take place just after lunch, so time for chilling and helping the Under 12 team to stay focused.

The medal presentation was amazing. 18 Aqualina swimmers on the podium, in their striking blue tops, was a sight to behold.

By about 3pm, the Under 12 Chihuahua team had been coached, warmed-up, stretched and given lots of encouragement by rest of the Aqualina family. Kerri duly took them to their stage, where nerves really kick in. In a category of 21 teams, it was a tough section. Their catchy music started, and off they went. Some of these young ladies have only been at the main club Aqualina just 12 short months! They swam the best anyone had seen, with nice high lifts, and great positioning. Their score was announced as 48.3333, which after 15 swims put them in 8th place. The girls were thrilled with this score, and the other 18 Aqualina girls crowded round for a big hug. The winning team in the Under 12 section scored 53.8667, and our girls finished in a respectable 12th place.

We were not expecting a medal for the Chihuahua team, but that fantastic swim was satisfying enough. Kerri was thrilled that they had ALL swum their best. What more could you ask?!
595 swimmers were competing - 70 teams from 27 clubs!  So, what an achievement for Aqualina!  Swim England tweets praised all three teams, with lovely comments, and the swimming.org website stated ….

“Another of the standout performances from Division 1 came from Hertfordshire club Aqualina, as they scooped a one-two in the 13-18yrs category. Their top squad scored the highest tally of the division with 62.2000, while their second squad won silver on 58.5000.”
Aqualina Combo Cup Success