While many school-aged children were taking a break from sports commitments during the October school holidays, Tauranga Synchro's team of 23 athletes were competing in New Zealand's top synchronised swimming event in Invercargill.
The NZ National Synchronised Swimming Championships attracted more than 150 athletes from China, New Caledonia and nine New Zealand clubs. Despite stiff competition, the Baywave-based club featured prominently in the medals for their Solo, Duet and Team routines.
It was more firsts for Zyleika Pratt-Smith, who in September claimed a sensational nine gold medals in swimming at the AIMS Games held in Tauranga. Pratt-Smith came first for her duet routine with partner Karlina Steiner, and first for her solo routine in the 13/14/15 age group.
In the Junior category, Eden Worsley and Isobel Pettit won gold for their pirate-themed duet. In the Aquarinas category, Catriona Robertson and Rhiannon Mabey placed third for their duet, and with Avalee Donovan, Martha Bunce and Ella Claydon placed second for their team routine.
Tauranga Synchro senior swimmers Eva Morris and Jazzlee Thomas, who competed at the World Championships in Hungary in July, won the Free Duet in the Open category. The pair were also part of a team featuring Zyleika Pratt-Smith, Karlina Steiner, Eden Worsley and Isobel Pettit who won gold in the Free Team event.
The Secondary Schools Competition added more medals to Tauranga Synchro's tally with gold for Eden Worsley and Isobel Pettit (Bethlehem College), third for Catriona Robertson and Rhiannon Mabey (Bethlehem College) and Avalee Donovan (Aquinas College) placing fourth for her solo.
While the results showed Tauranga Synchro's continuing dominance in the more senior categories, it was the efforts of their younger swimmers that were a highlight for the high-performing club.
For the first time, Tauranga Synchro sent a team to compete in the beginner Dolphin category, and the team of eight girls aged between 8-12 years narrowly missed a placing. However, one of their Dolphins, Yeva Parshikova, placed second overall in Figures, which are a combination of various synchronised swimming positions and an important part of overall scores.
"We are delighted that our Dolphins performed so well for such a young team, and thrilled with Yeva's fantastic result in such a large field of competitors," said Dolphins coach Suzanne Ribeiro, a former Brazilian representative synchronised swimmer.
"It's awesome to see the progress of our newer swimmers as they master the basic skills and are able to compete at the national level."
For head coach Lara Teixeira Cianciarulo, one of the highlights of the championships was Tauranga Synchro being awarded the Spirit Trophy.
"It is a trophy that recognises the club showing the greatest sportsmanship, support, warmth and all-around spirit," says the three-time Olympian from Brazil. "And that's so important to us in this club. Working together as a team and encouraging our athletes to be the best they can be. That's what we're all about."
The Dolphins are back to training to prepare for the annual Christmas display in December. Three of Tauranga Synchro's athletes, Eden Worsley, Isobel Pettit and Karlina Steiner, have been selected for the New Zealand Development Team and will be competing at the Singapore Open in late November.
"There are fantastic opportunities in this growing sport," Cianciarulo said.
Tauranga Synchro information: Jo on 027 543 1697, email firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook @taurangasynchroNZ.