Synch or Swim: Emma Tice-Kepner

Megan Clinton, News Editor

A picture of synchronized swimmers in a star formation underwater.
Emma and her synchronized swimming team creating a star pattern underwater at the 2018 synchronized swimming junior Olympics in Ohio last summer. (Photo Courtesy of Emma Tice-Kepner)

I’ve known freshman Emma Tice-Kepner since she moved into the house across the street from mine in 2015. When we met for the first time, I vaguely remember talking about her family and interests, but I will never forget when she brought up how she does competitive synchronized swimming.

Emma Tice-Kepner is currently a member of the NoVa Synchronized swimming team. She started synchronized swimming seven years ago with her old team, 5280, when she lived in Denver, Colorado.

“No matter how much I hurt or complain, I will always love synchro because of the friends I’ve met and the competitions I’ve gotten to go to,” said Emma.

“I would say you should try it, but just know it won’t be easy at first, or ever really, And I know personally when I first did it I kind of wanted to quit… It’s all about building the basic skills and the building blocks to get to the harder levels and skills,” said Emma.

Synchronized swimmers perform a lift where they throw one girl into the air.
Emma and her team performing a lift, a move when the team throws a girl in the air so she can do flips. (Photo Courtesy of Emma Tice-Kepner)

But before I could actually begin the interview, I asked Emma to describe what synchronized swimming was, and she had a prepared answer.

“Synchro is a combination of high-intensity cardio training and speed swimming and similar skills to a cheerleader or gymnast. All while holding your breath underwater and not being able to touch the bottom of the pool,” said Emma.

Emma’s team is one of the biggest teams in the area, yet is also one of the few teams in the area.

“I think it is uncommon purely because people don’t pay attention to it until the Olympics and they think it’s cool. Also, it is unpopular and is hard to find a local team,” said Emma.

When not synchronized swimming, Emma enjoys taking naps, baking, and watching documentaries. She also enjoys baking, especially chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes. In addition, she is a member of the concert choir at Mason and helped choreograph “Aladdin Jr” the musical at Mary Ellen Henderson middle school this year.

Emma enjoys her free time, but most of her life is dedicated to synchronized swimming. She has practice on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays for two and a half to three hours. It’s not always easy, but Emma has learned many lessons throughout the years.

Synchronized swimmers perform a popup transition.
Emma and her teammates perform a popup transition between skills at a competition. (Photo Courtesy of Emma Tice-Kepner)

“A lesson that I’ve learned from doing synchro is that you’re definitely not always right. Because obviously, we have to count the music in our heads while under water so we don’t get off beat, said Emma. “And sometimes I would count to the wrong beat or count the wrong part of the music, and people would start to yell over each other and at that point, it’s better if we just stop and listen and all try to get onto it together.”

Due to there not being many local teams, Emma gets to travel often for competitions. She has gone all across the country – Florida, California, Texas, New York, and North Carolina, to name a few.

Two girls perform deckwork before diving into the pool.
Emma and her duet partner Sophie perform deck work, a series of dance moves on the land before they dive into the pool and perform their duet at a competition.

“This year I went to my first nationwide competition, and there were teams from all across America. And it was just really cool to see how supportive everyone was of each other even if they were from the opposite end of the country,” Emma said.

Emma plans on continuing synchronized swimming throughout high school and is looking into the possibility of continuing to swim in college.