Sports

Chase for synchronized crown starts for TJ grad

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

It was love at first sight when Natalie Chase witnessed her first synchronized swimming practice 12 years ago.

“Just the thrill of competition and performing for somebody is what I really like about it,” Chase said. “I guess I get a high from it almost.”

The 2003 Thomas Jefferson High School graduate will be returning home starting tomorrow to compete at the Aflac United States National Synchronized Swimming Championships inside the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. The competition will run through Saturday.

“I’m so excited to be coming back,” Chase said. “I get to compete in front of my old club team and my family. It’s really exciting.”

Chase is currently in her freshman year at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. The small, private school is one of only a select few colleges in America to offer synchronized swimming as a varsity sport. The Cardinals placed third at the U.S. Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Championships in Gainesville, Fla. behind Stanford and Ohio State last month.

Chase is one of three Federal Way swimmers who will be competing this weekend at the Aquatic Center. Emma Miller, currently a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson, and Charlene Walton, a sophomore at Holy Names Academy in Seattle, will be competing for the Seattle Synchronized Swimming Club team. Both Miller and Walton commute to Kenmore five to six days a week to train.

“(Emma) went to see it and fell in love hook, line and sinker,” said Renee Miller, Emma’s mother and the meet director at the U.S. Nationals. “It’s like a cult. It takes up a huge amount of time and a lot is expected of the kids. As a parent, you just kind of support it.”

Elite-level synchronized swimming is similar to club gymnastics, meaning athletes are required to put in hours and hours of practice time before they achieve success at a high level.

“Most people don’t know all the extra stuff that goes into it,” Chase said. “We lift weights, do pilates and practice in the pool for four hours a day. We have one day off a week because if you take too much time off, you lose a lot of the training you’ve built up in endurance and muscle strength.”

Chase will also be among those competing this weekend in the final phase of trials for the 2008 United States Olympic Training Squad. Several individuals will be selected after the Nationals for a three-year program in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

“We’ll see,” Chase said about qualifying for the Olympic Training Squad. “I just want to see if I can make it. But I definitely want to make it into finals.”

Chase will be competing in the team competition with the rest of the University of the Incarnate Word squad and will

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