The Edmonton Aurora Synchronized Swim Club arose from a merger in 1981 between two competing clubs in Edmonton, the Aquadettes and the 700 Wing Kippers. Leslie Ringrose (now Leslie Sproule), became the head coach of the newly merged club, which became the only nationally competitive club within the city.
Although the Edmonton Aurora Synchronized Swim Club was formed in the 1981, real success did not begin until the mid-’80s. By 1987 Aurora Synchro had members on the Canadian national team for the first time in club history. This was the start of a very successful period. Aurora Synchro placed members on every national team. Kirstin Normand, an athlete who started synchro in the 1980s, went on to be the captain of the 2000 Olympic team that won bronze in Sydney.
The head coach from 1981 to 1994 was Leslie Sproule. Leslie put several Aurora swimmers on the national team during her time as head coach, including Heather Johnston, Colleen Harvey, Carolyn Meraw, and Kelsey Corbitt.
In the summer of 1993 Sherry was contacted by Leslie Sproule with the opportunity to take over the head coach position of the Edmonton Auroras, as Leslie and her family were relocating to Calgary. Sherry moved to Edmonton from Saskatoon, and for the next decade placed athletes on the national team every year.
In 1995-96 she assisted with the submission to have the Canadian Olympic team centered in Edmonton in preparation for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Kirstin Normand made the first phase of that team. In 1998 two athletes, Kirstin Normand and Lesley Wright, made the national A team that competed at the world championships in Perth, Australia. In the 1999-2000 season Kirstin Normand made the Olympic team, and was named team captain.
That same season Sherry developed the elite training program for the Auroras, that was a highly effective training system which helped to place the Aurora athletes and teams on the podium for next several more years.
Sherry also recruited both Nicole and Lindsay Cargill from Saskatchewan to come to train with her in Edmonton. Both of these athletes competed on Canada's national A team and world championships. Nicole went on to compete at the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece.
Aurora National Team members from the 1990s were:
Kirstin Normand (2000 Olympics)
During her years with the Auroras Sherry was fortunate to be surrounded by excellent volunteers and board of directors, volunteers like Ann Roth, Barb Burrows, Cheryl Lindberg, Rowan Scott, Mary and Gunther Tragesar, and Lesley Carter, just to name a few. The individual of the greatest influence would have been Marian Stuffco, Aurora president for six years and Synchro Canada president for four years. Marian's vision and belief in high performance was certainly a driving force and great support system for Sherry during her 10 years with the Edmonton Auroras. Marian had the ability to build a team of champions at every level within the club and ensured that the Auroras were front and center of world-class synchronized swimming. Sherry continues to live in Edmonton with her husband and three young children. She works as a registered dietitian.
In 2002 Teresa Alentejano became head coach of the Edmonton Auroras. During her time as head coach Kim Phillips and Nicole Cargill made national team. Teresa placed several Aurora teams in the top six at nationals. One team, the junior 2004 team, placed sixth with only six members. At that time there was a .5 penalty per swimmer for any team with less than eight swimmers. There were more than 20 teams competing that year. A highlight of Teresa’s time as head coach was the creation of the satellite pool program that brought the sport to swimmers in the areas surrounding Edmonton. We have many swimmers now at the national level who started the sport by participating in the program in their community. A key supporter of the club during Teresa’s time as head coach was Faye Douglas Phillips. Teresa is back at Aurora Synchro this year coaching the 13-15 national stream B team alongside Erin MacAngus, as well as our national level extra routines. Her long coaching experience and role as a FINA international judge is a great asset to the club.
In 2005 Vanessa Bray, now Vanessa Keenan, took over the head coach role. Vanessa had been a swimmer under Sherry Vanin and worked as assistant head Coach with Teresa. Vanessa was able to place athletes into the 13-15 and junior national team trials four years in a row. In 2007 four Aurora athletes were on the Canada Winter Games team winning the bronze medal. In 2008 two athletes named to 12 & under Team Alberta team for UANA. In 2009 four 13-15 athletes combined with Calgary Elite athletes to win bronze in Prague’s Christmas Prize competition. It was Aurora Synchro’s first international meet in over a decade. Several athletes made the 2009 and 2010 provincial teams. In 2009-2010 there were four Wildrose teams. While Vanessa was head coach, Aurora Synchro was one of the few clubs in Canada with a senior team: in 2005, 2008 , 2009 (1st), 2010 (2nd).
Key supporters during Vanessa’s time as head coach were:
Faye Douglas Phillips
Rowan and Jayne Scott
Joanne and Don Galloway
Gord and Chris Sharek
Aurora National Team members in the last 10 years were:
Nicole Cargill 2004 Olympics
Within the last 10 years Aurora Synchro successes include winning two national championships, three appearances in the Speedo catalogue, five appearances on TSN, several top three finishes at international events, and multiple top three and six finishes at Nationals. Some recent prominent athletes from Auroras were Lindsey and Nicole Cargill, who were longtime National A team members, with Nicole being a member of the 2004 Olympic team in Athens.
More recently, at the 2010 Canadian Open Synchronized Swimming Championship Natasha Ridenour placed fifth in tier 7 senior solos (technical and free combined);Emily Whalen of the Auroras camefirst overall in tier 7 seniors solo events; Meaghan and Samara Hipkin placed first in tier 7 seniors duets; and the Auroras came second in tier 7 seniors team, missing first place by .001.
In 2011, the Aurora 13-15 team coached by Jaime Thompson, had a second place finish at Westerns. Also in 2011, the 12 & under team, The 12 & underTcoached by Jennifer Parker, had fantastic results at the Wildrose Classic provincial championship in April: first place for the team routine, Sydney Heigh and Kate Chernoff came second in duet, Amy Parker came first in solo, and Amy and Kendra Melnychuk finished first and second in figures. They had similar results at the MASY competition in May:first in team, first in solo, second in duet, and everyone had a top-20 figures finish !
In July of 2011, Jennifer Parker, Aurora alumni and coach, became our new head coach.
In 2011-12 Aurora Synchro employed all past head coaches. Vanessa and Teresa were on deck several times each week. Sherry Vanin-Robertson worked with our swimmers on nutrition. Leslie Sproule consults as a technical advisor. We are also contracting Aurora alumni and past national team member Ann Pierzchalski as our psychology trainer. And Kirstin Normand guest-coaches and attends our yearly Kirstin Normand figures meet to give out awards and supports us as we strive for excellence.