After four years Eryn Schmisseur can do the routines with her eyes closed.
And, a lot of times she does.
The 12-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills resident is a member of the Arizona Aqua Stars synchronized swimming team that performs precise, choreographed ballets while suspended in the water.
During a typical meet Schmisseur will perform in duet, trio and team maneuvers without ever having the benefit of touching the bottom of the pool.
Last weekend, she and her team wrapped up their regular season at the Arizona Grand Canyon State games at Mesa’s Kino Pool.
Schmisseur is familiar with the Kino pool because that is where her team trains.
“We know the pool so we can do the routines with our eyes closed,” she said. “But when we go to other pools we have to open our eyes.”
Although the season came to an end with the Games, that doesn’t mean Schmisseur will have a chance to put away her towel.
The sixth-grader at St. John Bosco School in Ahwatukee Foothills has qualified for the 11-12 age group for the U.S. National Synchronized Swimming team that will be training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y.
However, the summer doesn’t end there.
Schmisseur will be part of a demonstration performance in her age group with the 13-15 U.S. National team in Satan Clara, Calif., before packing for an international competition in Lima, Peru.
“I’m a little nervous,” but excited, too,” she said. “I’ll have to get to know people from other teams all over.”
This is Schmisseur’s second official trip to the nationals as a competitor in the same age group. She also went as a spectator when her older sister, Sydney, qualified for the U.S. National team in two different age groups.
The siblings started synchronized swimming at the same time.
“I was doing speed swimming for three or four years when some friends suggested we try out for the Aqua Stars,” Schmisseur said. “I didn’t know anything about synchronized swimming, but you get used to it pretty fast.”
Unlike swimming 50 or 100 meters in freestyle, butterfly, backstroke or breastroke where she could take a breath, Schmisseur had to learn to fill her lungs with air and hold it under water.
“That’s the hardest part,” she said. “The longest I’ve held my breath was 48 seconds.”
Being involved in duet, trio and team, Schmisseur had to learn different routines for each group.
“Team is the hardest of all three,” she said.
During the team competition Schmisseur is what they call the “flyer,” or the member who is lifted out of the water and sometimes thrown as part of the show.
“That’s fun,” she said, “but the hybrid, when you are underwater and doing stuff with your legs, is hard. It takes more energy than swimming.”
Schmisseur had also been involved in gymnastics for three years and said some of that training has helped her in her current passion.
“Being in gymnastics helped with the splits and things like that,” she said.
Synchronized swimming is part athletics and a lot of showmanship, from costumes to exaggerated waterproof makeup and a bun hairstyle that is held in place with a generous amount of clear Jell-O.
“It will last longer if you put the right amount in your hair,” Schmisseur said, adding that she’s learned to add the Jell-O with her eyes closed.