Lindenwood’s synchronized swimming team entered the U.S. National Championships with medal aspirations after a solid showing two weeks ago at the collegiate championships. But what transpired in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday (April 13) was beyond what even the athletes and coaches competing could have dreamed of.
Lindenwood (LU) entered two events, earned the top scores for every final routine they swam, and came away with two gold and one bronze medal to win the first national titles in the program’s short five-year history.
“This is a milestone day in the history of LU Synchro,” said coach Lori Eaton. “We earned those medals in front of the best the U.S. has to offer, in front of internationally rated judges, and we did it our way – swimming with passion, with emotion, and with our hearts.
“When you put it into perspective, the last college program not named Ohio State or Stanford to win a single national title took 12 years to do so. We did it in five.”
Freshman, Mary Killman of McKinney, led the solo event from start to finish winning her second national championship in two tries. The 2012 Olympian took a 2.7-point lead into the final after Friday’s technical routine swim. Killman added to that margin with an 87.775 in her final free routine for a combined total of 173.725 – more than five points ahead of the field.
Junior Reem Abdalazem stood fifth after her free preliminary swim on Thursday. Her solid technical routine swim on Friday gave her a slim 0.6 edge going into the final. As the margins between the swimmers narrowed in the final, it was Abdalazem who came up the big winner, earning the third-best mark by a slim margin and securing her first U.S. Nationals medal with a final score of 167.5125.
“The solos were amazing today. Mary is the most naturally talented athlete I’ve ever coached. You can’t help but be mesmerized by her swimming. She can do things above the water at a height that no other competitor can even come close to,” Eaton said. “And Reem, to come from fifth on Thursday to win bronze on Saturday? She’s so personable and fluid. She just draws you in with her eyes, and you can’t help but fall in love with her swimming.”
The duet final was just as exhilarating for Abdalazem and Anouk Eman. The pair was a close second after their preliminary free routine on Thursday, and used a strong technical routine swim Friday to qualify for the final just one-tenth of a point back from the lead. Saturday’s duet free final closed with Abdalazem and Eman swimming last, and the pair did not disappoint. The highly provocative routine that captivated audiences since its debut in March earned an 85.9625 to win the gold medal with a final composite mark 168.025.
“Never before have I been at an event where, even as we arrived at the pool for warm-ups on Thursday, people were stopping me saying, ‘I can’t wait to see your duet,’” Eaton said. “We sought to do something different with this routine. Reem and Anouk have a profound chemistry in the water. Their duet isn’t something you watch, it’s something you experience.”
All athletes at the U.S. Nationals perform in preliminary free routine competition. Only those seeking to qualify for the finals must swim in the technical routine competition. The combined scores of the two events determine placement heading into the finals. Once there, the final free routine score replaces the preliminary free routine score and is combined with the technical routine score to determine the medalists.
Killman teamed with sophomore Dennise Ramirez in the preliminary free duet event and won first place with a score of 87.825 on Thursday, but the pair opted to focus only on their free routine and not compete in the technical event, so they were not eligible for the finals on Saturday.
Complete results can be found at: usasynchro.org/Events/champs12/2013_US_National_Championships.htm.
Killman's official website: marykillman.com.