Anna Matenaer makes a splash in synchronized swimming

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St. Paul Academy and Summit School junior Anna Matenaer performs in a trio at a recent synchronized swimming meet. ” “It is a lot of work, I am frequently sore. You get a lot of cramps,” Matenaer said.

With a deep breath, St. Paul Academy and Summit School junior Anna Matenaer dived into the blue water. Slowly, her legs rose above the pool’s surface, pointing towards the high ceiling. Matenaer and her two other teammates swam across the whole pool, kicking, turning and spinning to the beat of Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us.” With every lift and twirl, the audience roared in excitement. With a dramatic finish, she glided out of the pool and hugged the rest of her team, her chest heaving from exhaustion.

This is why Matenaer loves synchronized swimming. Though the junior looks like a professional in the pool now, it was a long journey to this much skill. Matenaer began synchronized swimming in sixth grade, after her mom discovered the sport that combined all of Matenaer’s talents.

“I have always been a swimmer,” Matenaer said. “I used to do gymnastics and I really liked that. [Synchronized swimming] is kind of like gymnastics in the water.”

Matenaer has been competing with the St. Paul Stars Synchronized Swimming Club ever since. The team practices six days a week with rigorous workouts, including three hours on school nights and five to six hours on Saturdays.

The strenuous practices take a definite toll on her body. “It is a lot of work; I am frequently sore,” Matenaer said. “You get a lot of cramps.” Synchro, as many synchronized swimmers call the sport, uses almost all of the muscles in the body, specifically arm and leg strength to support leg kicks and other movements. Matenaer, who is also the captain of the SPA/Highland Park swim team, said that “regular swimming mostly gets me in shape for synchro.” Synchronized swimmers also need to have amazing stamina and breathing control, as a majority of their performances are performed with their heads underwater.

The competition season begins in February with regional events. At these meets, Matenaer and her teammates perform choreographed routines in solos, duets, trios and team performances to music ranging from Beyoncé to a sports-themed smash-up. Matenaer contributes to her team by performing in a trio and the whole team performance with her seven other teammates.

During their performances, judges score the team on technical merit and artistry.  “The final score is 50% routine and 50% figures of each team member,” Matenaer said. “Figures show body control and breath control.”

After regional events, the team travels to national meets and international meets around the country. With the Stars, Matenaer has traveled everywhere from South Dakota to Hawaii.

Matenaer hopes to continue her passion for synchro in college. A few schools have shown interest in her for their varsity synchronized swimming teams, but she has not looked much into the process yet, because recruitment is lengthy and difficult. Prospective swimmers need to send in a video of their performances and techniques. Though Matenaer is interested in college synchro, she feels that the number of schools that offer the sport “really limits my options,” she said.

The team’s next meet is in Riverside, California on June 25-29 for the National Championships.

Anyone interested in synchronized swimming can check out the St. Paul Star’s website, http://www.spssynchro.us/ for more information on the program and schedule.