Synchronized swimmers enjoy final performance together at Show-Me State Games

Sunday, July 25, 2010 | 7:19 p.m. CDT; updated 8:27 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 25, 2010
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The Show-Me State Games held its synchronized swimming event Sunday at the Hickman Municipal Pool. Only two clubs traveled to Columbia to compete in the event: the Kansas City Sea Sprites and St. Louis Gateway Synchro.

COLUMBIA — The crowd noise reverberating throughout the stands at the Hickman High School swimming pool went quiet when Sarah Dunalewicz, Hillary Lewis and Emma Mrkonic stepped to the edge of the water in their matching neon green and dark blue swimsuits.

When they confidently dove into the pool, spectators at Sunday's Show-Me State Games synchronized swimming event stopped talking and grabbed their cameras to record the seemingly flawless routine.

The Kansas City Sea Sprites' 18 to 19-year-old team won the trio competition at the event in their final competitive performance. The group will be parting ways in the fall to attend diferent colleges. Earlier in this month, they placed seventh at the 2010 Esynchro Age Group Championships in New York.

“It’s a fun way to wrap up the year,” said Mrkonic, 18, who will be attending Wellesley College in Massachusetts this fall. As well as swimming there, she plans to start her own synchronized swimming club.

Seventeen Sea Sprite swimmers traveled to the Show-Me State Games with head coach Marilyn Diester, who formed the club in 1951, making it the oldest team in the United States under continuous coaching.

“I’ve only missed one or two practices since I started coaching,” said Diester, who coached competitors Sunday from a wooden chair on the side of the pool while also fulfilling her duties as a judge for the competition.

Between warmups and performances, Diester's athletes sat Indian-style in single-file lines fixing each other’s hair and applying makeup to ensure a sharp look for the judges.

“The judges look for a lot of things, but they are mostly looking at the way you present yourself in the water,” Mrkonic said. “It’s all about making the hard things look easy.”

Mrkonic did just that during her solo performance. After staying underwater for a series of leg twists, she emerged with a huge ear-to-ear smile stretching across her face.

Despite the artistic freedom that a solo routine provides for Mrkonic as a synchronized swimmer, she said the more teammates she has doing a routine with her the better.

“Our movements are sharper and we get to move much faster,” Mrkonic said. “Plus, it’s more fun.”

So, the Sea Sprites' final performance at the end of Sunday's competition seemed fitting. Teammate Angela Butel joined the team's winning trio for a routine set to a crowd-pleasing Lady Gaga song medley. The group took fashion inspiration from the singer by attaching neon duct tape to their black bathing suits and caking thick black and pink makeup around their eyes.

“We got to pick out our own music, our routine and our costumes,” Mrkonic said.

While the eccentric performance was the last time the teammates compete with each other on the same team, they said they still plan to have some more fun together out of the water before college.

“We’re going camping right after this competition,” said Mrkonic excitedly, laughing and pointing at Dunalewicz. “She’s driving!”

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