|By Rick Sobey|
WILRBAHAM Holding one's breath underwater for a long period of time is not a talent that the average human has mastered over the years. Fish have been able to stay underwater for a while because they have a special body part called gills, but humans have not grown gills during their existence on earth. However, members of the Minnechaug Synchronized Swim Team might be hiding the gill mutation from the public.
Simply attend their performances on May 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. and you will see how long they can remain under water without taking a breath. It seems almost impossible that a human's lungs would be capable of going without air for that extended period of time. Regardless, they are actually Minnechaug girls, not mermaids, who are performing the spectacular routine for two evenings.
These are the only two public performances for the team all season. They also host a small private show each year for the students of Mile Tree School in Wilbraham, but that is all for the team's season. Unfortunately for the synchro team, there is not another varsity synchronized swim team in Western Massachusetts for Minnechaug to compete against.
There are 15 members on the team this year, and five of the girls are four-year veterans. Eight of the members are graduating seniors, and they hope to have an excellent final high school performance.
"They are amazingly hard working and athletic," Joanne Maher, mother of a Minnechaug synchro performer, said. "These girls make up a true team."
The senior performers include Ali Maher, Jaimie DelNegro, Rebecca Statham, Rebecca Lyons, Shannon Limero, Katie Weston, Heather Gawron and Leanne Savage. The captains on the squad are Statham, Gawron and Savage. At this point, Ali is the only senior girl to be a definite for competitive synchronized swimming in college, but other seniors might still decide to participate next year. Ali will be going to Wheaton College in the fall, and she has been recruited to swim on their NCAA Synchronized Swimming team.
According to Joanne, these are not performances that people should miss out on seeing, and you will end up regretting it if you fail to attend these upcoming shows.
"The team puts together a well orchestrated event that features a variety of musical selections to which the team performs their water show," Joanne said. "Audiences are always fascinated by how long the ladies can stay underwater with their feet above the surface as they turn, twist and move in synchronization with their teammates and the music."
She believes that synchronized swimming is very challenging and not something anybody could do. However, she thinks the difficulty of the sport makes it an awesome event to watch.
"Have you ever gone underwater, put your feet in the air, done a couple of splits, put your foot on your knee, done a few turns, a couple of rolls and a little swimming before you surfaced, without taking a breath?" Joanne asked. "Or have you ever gone into the deep end of the pool and had a person stand on your shoulders, another on their shoulders and a third on top of that who gets flipped into the air?
"Or how about the simple stuff like swimming across the pool in unison with your teammates, floating together, legs in the air together, alternating arms together?" Maher continued. "The team's slogan last year was 'Oxygen is overrated!'"
The order and performances of the show have not yet been finalized, but the girls plan to start with a full team routine to John Williams' score of "Summon the Heroes." There will also be a number of small group performances, and the team will end the show with the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance," which includes a tribute to the graduating seniors.
The cost to attend the performance is $5, $4 with a Renaissance card. The shows will take place at the Minnechaug pool.