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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Synchronized swimmers make it look easy

Special to The New Hampshire Union Leader

February 17. 2013 9:09PM

The first introduction I had to synchronized swimming was an old "Saturday Night Live" skit starring Martin Short as a poor swimmer in an orange life vest. The skit, which parodied two men attempting to be the first male synchronized swimming duo in the Olympics, was hilarious. But it's not even close to the real thing.

The real thing is really difficult to do and really cool to watch and you can see it at the YMCA of Greater Manchester Catalinas' annual water show at the Mechanic Street pool on Saturday, March 16.

"I would relate it to running a sprint around the pool, jumping in the water and holding your breath and making it look easy and effortless," said head coach Liana (Cardillo) Thomas. The 2000 West High School graduate said she stumbled onto "synchro" during her freshman year at Wheaton College. She had danced her whole life and was a lifeguard and swimming instructor in high school. She didn't even know her college had a synchronized swim team until she got there, but decided she should give it a try.

After graduation she coached Boston University's synchro team and later came home to Bedford to discover Manchester had started its own team in 2006.

While the national governing body of synchronized swimming does allow boys to compete, the Catalinas team is made up of 21 females, ranging from age 9 to 16. Among them are Manchester residents Zara Hannigan, 11, 12-year-olds Sophie Barber, Riley Cullen, and Rachel Phelan, and 14-year-old Abby Smith.

The water show is in preparation for the team's big meets coming up in April. Top teams from those competitions can go on to regional, zone and national meets.

Team members compete in solos, duets, trios and teams of four to eight swimmers; routines are given technical and artistic scores by the judges. Each swimmer is also judged on individual abilities. I was surprised to find that synchronized swimmers never touch the bottom of the pool. Thomas explained they use a leg move called "egg beater" to keep their heads above water and something called a "hybrid" to keep their legs above water when they are upside down.

Like Short's SNL character, I am not a very strong swimmer. But, while Thomas said strong swimming skills and a background in dance or gymnastics is certainly helpful, anyone interested in joining the Catalinas can start from scratch. They even have a Masters group for older gals like me.

To find out more, contact Thomas at The YMCA of Greater Manchester also offers a beginner class for children and is working on a beginner class for adults as well.

The March 16 water show starts at 1 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Please find my panda

Still no word from anyone who has seen the "Traveling Panda" painting. I have been given hints that tell me it's at a business that is on a street that starts with the letter "S" in the southeastern part of the city. If you have seen it, please email me at

Battle of the Badges

Kudos to Manchester Police Officers Brian Gannon, Christian Horn, Bob Bellenoit, and especially Dan Doherty for participating in the ChaD Battle of the Badges this year. The Saturday, March 16, game will mark the 6th year that local police and firefighters from around the state have come out to the Verizon Wireless Arena to play some hockey and raise money for the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth. This year is special because the players hope to reach the $1 million fundraising mark, and because this year police and firefighters will be putting their differences aside and playing on the same team.

Using Interstate 93 as a guideline, there will be one team from the eastern part of the Granite State and one from the west. Both will have police and firefighters, but sadly, I hear that no Manchester firefighters even tried out for this year's Battle of the Badges Team. Hey, we can still cheer on our boys in blue.

Doherty was scheduled to play in last year's game, but while he was recovering from life-threatening gunshot wounds he received while on duty, his brother represented him at the game to drop the first puck. According to Nathalie Martinez at ChaD, Doherty is going to be there himself to drop the puck at this year's game and is even hoping to get some ice time. I am so amazed and more than thankful that he has come so far in just a year.

The Manchester officers are part of Team West, which is captained by Manchester Police Lt. Pete Favreau, who is also a ChaD dad.

Tickets are $10, free for children under 10. You can also make a donation on behalf of a particular player or team by visiting Event of the Week

Palace Theatre Artistic Director Carl Rajotte has done it again with an original music production called "Divas Through the Decades." The show continues this weekend Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Divas promises to transport the audience to another place and time with lavish costumes, stunning lights, world-class, show-stopping vocals and jaw-dropping visual effects. Don't miss this premiere event.

Visit for more information on this and other great events around the Granite State.

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