Ohio State synchronized swimming aims to win honor memory of former Buckeye

Members of the OSU synchronized swimming team compete in the U.S. Collegiate National Championships on March 28 at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. The Buckeyes clinched their 29th national title in program history.Credit: Lantern File PhotoThe Ohio State synchronized swimming team is continuing its quest for a second consecutive national championship and 30th overall on Saturday by competing in the Jessica Beck Memorial, its final home meet of the season.The Buckeyes, who finished first out of four teams in their season-opening meet, the OSU Invitational, are set to host another three opponents at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion: Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and Wright State.After starting the 2016 season on a good note, the Buckeyes are hoping to keep their successful ways going. The team has previously been successful in the Jessica Beck Memorial, winning nine consecutive times.The Buckeyes have several members of their 2015 national champion squad competing, including junior Emma Baranski.Baranski had a major contribution to the Buckeyes’ win in their first meet this season by sealing a victory in both a solo routine and a duet alongside teammate, Monica Velazquez-Stiak.“Team unity is a large contributing factor to the success of the team,” Baranski said. “Before we swim, we come together and do a big team cheer. Throughout the entire meet, whether you are swimming a duet, a trio or a solo, you are staying with your team.”Along with the unity of the team, Baranski said the team’s general hard work is key in its ability to win.“Before competition, we train even harder,” Baranski said. “We push ourselves every day because we are striving for perfection.”OSU coach Holly Vargo-Brown stressed the importance of that conditioning, saying all the unity in the world can only get you so far if you’re not up for the task at hand physically.“At this point of the season, it’s really a competition against yourself,” Vargo-Brown said. “Are you going to remember what you are supposed to be doing? Are you going to be there for your teammates?“We are just making sure that we are doing the work that we have prepared for.”Baranski emphasized the importance of home meets and how the energy of the crowd benefits the team.“Synchronized swimming isn’t a popular sport around the country, but at Ohio State we have so many fans,” Baranski said.“There is so much support and it is absolutely amazing.”Unfortunately for the team, Saturday’s meet marks just its second and final one in Columbus this season. As a result, the team’s two seniors, Amrian Johnson and Julia Toro, are set to be honored before the meet as part of the traditional senior day festivities.While winning is a goal, there is a deeper meaning going into the weekend’s event, which began in 2007 to honor Jessica Beck, a former OSU synchronized swimmer who died in September 2005. Beck, who was a 21-year-old senior at the time of her death, passed away in her sleep. The cause was later found to be acute cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. “I think when we swim at this meet it is not just about winning,” Baranski said. “It is about being a part of something bigger than ourselves and the opportunity that we have to swim together every single day.”The Jessica Beck Memorial is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.