They don’t often get the respect they deserve until a closer, second look, but they’re not sure what they’d do without it.
Menomonee Falls Dolphinettes commit to nearly year-round training and travel, hold their breath off and on for minutes at a time and do it all in harmony with each other.
“The sport is really more difficult than a lot of people think,” said Coach Linda Loehndorf.
Dophinettes is a competitive synchronized swimming club, one of a handful in the state. It is not sanctioned by the WIAA and is instead governed by Fina, the same organization that governs competitive swimming events at the Olympics.
Children start as early as 7 and are eligible through 19. The Menomonee Falls club has about 40 members from the surrounding area all with similar passions.
“I like that you can express your creativity with this,” said Kimberly Lurenz, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Franklin graduate.
“It’ not just doing strokes. You’re doing creative, artistic things,” said Menomonee Falls junior Emily Emanuele.
Lurenz and Emanuele swim in a duet and have qualified for national competition April 10-14.
The pair qualified a couple of weekends ago when they placed third at a regional competition in Illinois. The top four qualify.
It’s the third straight year they’ve qualified for nationals, but this time in the senior division since Lurenz is 19. The first two years were in the junior category, and they can still remember the moment the first time they made it.
“She, like, jumped into my arms,” said Lurenz. “It was one of those priceless moments.”
This year they’ll be competing against members of the Olympic team.
“These are the elitest of the elite,” said Emanuele.
Talented or not, this isn’t exactly the football team and it doesn’t carry the same reputation among peers.
“People usually, I think, underestimate it,” said Menomonee Falls senior Sam Paddock. “It’s hard to them to understand.”
Synchronized swimmers need to be graceful and strong at the same time with lung capacity to hold their breath for up to 30 seconds at a time several times in a row. Routines last from three minutes to more than four.
“I think it’s more exhausting than just holding your breath,” said Lurenz.
Synchronized swimming entrants can be soloists, duets, trios or eight-member teams. Loehndorf said she doesn’t allow solos because she likes to make her team members work together.
Like figure skating, performances include technical merit and artistic impression. Competition has a technical routine and a free routine.
Meets are held across the world – the sport is bigger in other countries, but the Dolphinettes just travel within the USA. The team receives no money from the school district and does all of its own fundraising. Practice runs two to three times per week for 11 months of the year.
The Dolphinettes operates like a family. Loehndorf, who has been coaching and judging for decades, implemented a little sister program in which older team members adopt younger ones and mentor them.
“My concern is that they walk away from here with the love of the sport and they continue on in some capacity,” she said.
Many come back to coach and this week’s annual show includes a performance outside the school for adults only called “masters.”
It isn’t easy to say goodbye. Paddock has been a member for a decade and will attend UW-Madison next year, without a synchronized swimming team nearby.
“It’s going to be hard,” she said, “to imagine my life without it in the future.”
For more information visit them online.
Here’s your chance to see the Dolphinettes in action at their annual show.
- Thursday – Saturday, March 22-24
- 7:30 p.m.
- North Middle School pool
- Tickets: $5