Sports

Aquatic Center to host nation's largest synchronized swim meet

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The world’s largest synchronized swimming meet kicked off today inside the King County Aquatic Center.

The 2006 Esynchro United States Age Group Championships will run through July 1 in Federal Way and feature close to 1,000 athletes from ages 12 to 19 years old.

“This meet is always a big deal,” said Federal Way resident Gina Craig, the co-meet manager along with Christine LaBounty. “It’s pretty exciting.”

The age group championships is a grassroots competition that will feature up-and-coming junior athletes along with several reigning age group national champions. Swimmers will compete for titles in the solo, duet, trio and team events in four groups: 12-13, 14-15, 16-17 and 18-19 years old.

The championships, which are hosted by the Pacific Northwest Association, includes eight days of competition and carries an estimated economic impact of more than $1.3 million into Federal Way, according to United States Synchronized Swimming.

The Pacific Northwest Association includes several synchronized swimming teams from the area, including the Bremerton Tennis and Athletic Club, Emerald City Aquatic Club, Kitsap Water Blossoms, Olympia YMCA Synchro Club, Pacific Waves Synchro, Port Townsend Pirouettes, Seattle Cascades Synchro Club, Seattle Kaleidoscopes and the Seattle Synchronized Swim Team.

“We started planning this event a year ago,” Craig said. “And back then we booked 3,500 hotel rooms and even with that we will still have people that won’t be staying within the city of Federal Way.”

The King County Aquatic Center has developed into the premiere pool in the United States for hosting national synchronized swimming events. This week’s meet marks the fourth 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, the 2003 U.S. Open and the Aflac National Championships last fall.

“There are only a handful of pools around the country that can house this meet,” Craig said. “But there are still going to be some very long days for these girls.”

The Aquatic Center is no stranger to hosting this event. Federal Way held the 1996 and 2002 Esynchro United States Age Group Championships.

“The city of Federal Way really steps up with open arms,” Craig said.

The meet will start up at 7 a.m. every day with finals in age-group categories starting at 3:15 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and July 1.

Admission will be charged for finals competition only. Adult ticket prices for finals will be $10 and $5 for children ages six through 12. Children five and under will be free of charge. Results will be posted daily on www.usasynchro.org.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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