Two coaches, 66 girls and a vision to make the podium at state would make up a dream season for many synchronized swimming programs.
But for Forest Lake coach Laura Davison, it’s just a “growing year.”
It’s an appropriate description for the Rangers’ 2014 campaign on several levels.
Forest Lake has five more swimmers than it did in 2013, when the team finished fourth at state. And the Rangers expect to be bigger and more experienced next year.
“We have a really strong junior class and a really strong sophomore class and a really strong freshman class,” Davison said. “Just looking down the line, it’s exciting.”
Forest Lake also hired 2007 graduate Alissa Moberg in the offseason to share the coaching duties with Davison.
Moberg brings a fresh perspective to a program that has a recent tradition of success. Applying experience gained from coaching Jamaica’s national team, she’s taught new choreography, techniques and practice methods.
Moberg previously coached Bloomington Jefferson’s much smaller synchronized swimming program for four years.
“She’s really connected with the girls,” junior Rachel Chatwin said. “I think that, in working with us, she’s really brought a new horizon to Forest Lake synchro.”
Since Moberg graduated, the Rangers have twice finished in the top three at state. Moberg said the program hasn’t changed much since then, but the depth of talent and passion is greater than ever.
That’s especially important in synchronized swimming, which combines elements of swimming, gymnastics and dance and demands hours of practice and discipline.
“If you don’t love synchronized swimming, you’re not going to last,” Moberg said.
Having a second head coach has helped the Rangers manage their huge roster. Moberg called their practices “organized chaos” — a setup that requires the swimmers to put the team first.
“We only have a six-lane pool with 66 swimmers in the water at the same time,” Moberg said. “We all are continually working around one another and respecting the fact that the team is the top priority.”
Synchronized swimming has been popular at Forest Lake for many years, and only some of the athletes get to experience the highest level of competition. The team combats that by having each upperclassman take an underclassman under their wing for the season.
“We feel like it’s our responsibility to make them feel welcome,” junior Stephanie Brenk said. “We have a big team, so it can be difficult to get to know all of them.”
The Rangers have 18 new swimmers this season, and they return one all-state swimmer in sophomore Andrea Dunrud. Their inexperience showed in a season-opening loss to Stillwater, a Suburban East Conference rival.
But their results have improved since then, and they’ll be among the favorites at the state tournament.
“The talent keeps getting better, and athletes take their performances very seriously,” Davison said. “I’d say we’re poised for a really fantastic result at the end of the season.”
Charlie Armitz is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.