Northern Novas synchronize skills

Yukon’s synchronized swimmers, the Northern Novas, returned from a meet in Surrey, BC last weekend with improved confidence after several top…

Yukon’s synchronized swimmers, the Northern Novas, returned from a meet in Surrey, BC last weekend with improved confidence after several top finishes in the pool.

Taylor Hanna, Simone Kitchen, Katie Link and Olivia Duncan surprised themselves, and impressed the judges while competing against 160 other swimmers in their first meet of the year — the BC Strive Tier I-V meet in Surrey.

It’s been a long time since the swimmers had the chance to compete. They started training in September, and missed their first competition in February because of bad weather.

The Novas’ first splash of the season was a big one, which surprised everyone.

“We didn’t expect to finish first at all,” said Taylor Hanna, before practice at the Canada Games Centre on Tuesday. Hanna and partner Simone Kitchen swam to a first-place in the Tier II duet, finishing a full two points ahead of the next pair. “We’re usually in the middle, so this is really different for us.”

Hanna also had the top score in the figures event — in which each swimmer is judged while performing specific moves — again winning by more than two full points with a score of 56.897, and Kitchen finished in third place.

Other results were equally impressive, Katie Link and Olivia Duncan finished third with their duet performance, and all four swimmers together swam to a second-place score in the team event.

The team event result was especially gratifying — the Novas lost a swimmer two weeks before the competition, and had to rework the routine to fit four swimmers.

Coach Aura Lea Harper said she wanted her swimmers to compete at the Tier II level, to get a sense of where they stood within the BC/Yukon field, before moving them up to Tier III.

Although they scored well against the other teams, they’ll never know how well the competition swam. “We never watch, we don’t want to get psyched-out,” said Harper.

All four swimmers have been with the Novas for four seasons, and they hope to continue swimming long enough to make it to next Canada Winter Games in Halifax in 2011.

Currently those four are the Nova’s only competitive swimmers out of its 16 members.

Harper said the team trains about 10 hours a week in the pool, but as swimmers move into higher tiers, a bigger time commitment will be required.

Next up for the Novas, Hanna and Kitchen will head to the Jean Peters Provincial Meet in Kamloops, BC on May 23-25. And the weekend after that, all four swimmers will make the final splash of the season at the annual MASY Challenge in Regina.

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