Synchro swimmer in deep competition

Laura Montes '10Since 2004, synchronized swimmer Laura Montes ’10 and duet partner Nilda Rosado have trained and competed every year hoping to represent the Puerto Rican synchronized swimming national team at the Central American and Caribbean Games. The patience and strong work ethic have paid off. Montes and her partner were selected to compete at the 2010 games this summer.

After working for six years to get into the games, when she received word last November she was ecstatic. “It definitely was a dream of ours,” said Montes, who swam at Wheaton for four years. “Even through the challenges of attending college and trying to do well academically, we found a way to ensure we were doing our part and kept fighting until we were selected.

“It’s been such a dream because this national team is different from the seven others I have been part of. This meet is a qualifying meet for the current Olympic cycle. We have a very realistic chance to qualify for the Pan American Games next summer. If we qualify for the Pan American, we are one step closer in qualifying for the Olympics.

“Puerto Rico has only had representation in synchro once, which was in 2004. One of the girls who competed for Puerto Rico then is our coach now. The other reason it is such an important event is because Puerto Rico is hosting this meet and I get to represent my country in my country, where all my family and friends can come see me. I never have meets in Puerto Rico.”

Laura Montes '10Montes and her duet partner began working together as synchro swimmers at an athletic club in 1996 in their native Puerto Rico. A group of 15 girls got their start in the sport at the time, but only Montes and her partner remained involved. Remarkably, they’ve managed to stay partners even though they went to separate high schools, and Rosado attended college in New York, while Montes came to Wheaton.

One of 10 synchronized swimmers who represented Puerto Rico during the games in Mayaguez, Montes said she experienced the sport of synchro in a way she never has before. “The training was pretty intense,” said the political science major. “Between pool workouts and a specialized gym program, we trained eight hours a day, six days a week.”

Montes attributes much of her recent growth and development to Wheaton, where she helped lead the Lyons to four straight top-10 national finishes. “My four years at Wheaton were definitely my next level as an individual synchronized swimmer,” she said. “I developed skills in a very different way and had resources that I never had in Puerto Rico. I had access to more direct training and to a different type and technique of training.”

Prior to college, Montes was never introduced to trio or team competition, mostly due to low participation in the sport in her native land. She learned to choreograph and swim a team routine at Wheaton and then shared her acquired skills with her Puerto Rican teammates this summer.

Working with two coaches during her Wheaton tenure, Montes absorbed plenty from former synchro coach Anna Eng and current head coach Rebecca Story. “Coach Eng was good with mentally and physically preparing me to take on drastic change as a synchronized swimmer,” said Montes, who progressed from competing in one event per year during one national meet before college to doing three to five events in several meets.

“Coach Story helped me climb to that next level in my technical abilities, especially in solo. I’ve become a much stronger soloist in my spins and techniques. My best solo scores and peaks in college came about because she helped me choreograph from the ground up. The same solo routine that I tied for eighth in at the collegiate synchro meet I won at a national meet in Puerto Rico.”

Although she hopes to continue her synchro career at next summer’s Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, Montes isn’t sure what the immediate future holds.

She eventually plans to attend law school and work in the public sector, for the government or for a nonprofit.

For now, she’s just excited to be living out her passion.

“Being here really means the world,” said Montes. “It’s the biggest mountain we’ve ever set ourselves to climb. The whole island is very much in tune with the celebration and very proud of all the athletes who compete. The games are like the local Olympics.” Q

Look for an update on how Laura Montes did in the winter issue of the Quarterly.