Sports

Synchronized swimming nationals in town

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The best of the best synchronized swimmers in the United States, including the 2008 Olympic Training Squad, will be converging on Federal Way Thursday morning. The Aflac U.S. National Synchronized Swimming Championships will run through Saturday inside the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.

“We are thrilled to host such a prestigious meet for United States Synchronized Swimming,” said Inky Berge Baker, vice president of the local organizing committee, Bob Walsh Enterprises. “It has been a pleasure to organize this event for these athletes as they live out their dream — the opportunity to represent the United States in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.”

The King County Aquatic Center has developed into the premiere pool in the United States for hosting national synchronized swimming events. Next week’s meet marks the third national championship event held in Federal Way in the last five years, including the 1999 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the 2001 Esynchro Junior World Championships and the 2003 U.S. Open.

“They just love coming to our facility,” said Renee Miller, the Auburn resident who is acting as meet manager at the U.S. Nationals. “The businesses are very responsive to our needs.”

The Seattle area has also long been a hotbed for some of the best synchronized swimmers in the country. Seattle is the home to the sport’s first two Olympians — Tracie Ruiz-Conforto and Candy Costie. The pair won gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984. Thursday’s meet will also include three local participants in 20-year-old Natalie Chase, a 2003 Thomas Jefferson grad who now attends The University of The Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Emma Miller, a sophomore at TJ, and Charlene Walton, a sophomore at Holy Names Academy in Seattle. All three are veterans of the Seattle Synchronized Swim Team.

The U.S. Nationals could be the first of two elite-level synchronized swim meets held at the Aquatic Center in the next two and a half months. Mike Dunwiddie, the manager of the Aquatic Center, is currently negotiating with the synchronized swimming governing body about hosting an international meet June 8-10. The event would take the place of the recently cancelled Pacific Rim Sports Summit. The Aquatic Center was going to host swimmers, along with divers, from nine countries during the Summit, which was nixed because of a lack of funding. A decision is expected sometime this week.

“We are still hoping,” Dunwiddie said last week. “We

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