Synchro dives into new waters

New coaches bring perspective, skill


Abby Keller

Coach Carolyn Guddal instructs swimmers March 10. This is Guddal’s first year of being the head coach for girls’ synchronized swimming.

Elena Ortiz Fishman

With the resignation of Jessica Gust, Linda Gust and Rose Evensen, the girls’ synchronized swimming team was faced with finding new coaches to fill the empty spots.

Stepping into the role will be head coach Carolyn Guddal — a previous assistant coach — with current assistant coaches Savannah Kjaer, Lily Kulevsky and Claire Olson.

“It’s really exciting that we’re starting a new chapter,” Guddal said. “I’m only the fourth head coach in SLP Synchro history. So, I do recognize it is quite the legacy I’m stepping into — they’ve been devoted to the sport for my entire lifetime, but I’m really excited to see where we can go in this season to come.” 

After graduating from Park in 2015, this will be Guddal’s seventh season as a coach for synchro. Although stepping into the role as head coach this year may seem like a lot of pressure, Guddal said she feels confident to kickstart a successful season.

While the team felt the impact of losing its long-standing coaches, senior and captain Ada Turman said she is looking forward to starting fresh with returning alumnae.  

“We had a complete shift of coaches, the only person who is the same is Carol. So it’s nice to have her because she has experience with the team,” Turman said. “Having assistant coaches that I’ve swam with before is really cool because I can be on the team with them in a different respect, it’s definitely nice to have a younger perspective and people that I feel like I can talk to on a more personal level.”

According to assistant coach Savannah Kjaer, listening to athletes this season will be prioritized in order to improve after all the challenges that came with the pandemic. 

“It’s really exciting to have a new opportunity for cleaning things up a little bit in the program. We have talked about things that will look a little bit different, both on the coaching end, as well as (on) our team. It’s a little bit smaller, which I think has happened to a lot of sports coming out of COVID-19,” Kjaer said. “Facing those challenges and figuring out how we can use all of our athletes efficiently and make sure that everyone (is getting what) they want out of the program.” 

As her senior season approaches, Turman said she wants to enjoy her last one to the fullest with her team — and also hopes to regain Park’s reputation after the previous year’s sections meet.

“Carol is looking to focus on team dynamics and mental health more than last year,” Turman said. “We just want to have a fun season and bring everybody together, this is our last year on the team. We’re really trying to do well and perform well at state and sections so that we can kind of rebuild our reputation after losing sections last year — breaking the 27 year streak of winning sections was a heavy hit.”

As many of the new coaches have previously been swimmers, Kjaer said this offers valuable knowledge and perspective going forward with the team.

“I was on the team with the entire staff at one point or another. I have women who were in classes several years older than me and younger than me as well, so it’s really exciting to get us all back together,” Kjaer said. “It’s still very much in the early stage, but it’s going to be exciting having women coaching who have been swimming recently. Even things going through the pandemic, we have a good understanding having been swimmers ourselves so recently, of all the work and kind of chaos that goes into being high school students and high school athletes.”

In order to be successful, Turman said it’s important to strengthen and build new bonds with the coaches. 

“Just getting to know everyone, pretty much building those relationships up because when the Gusts and Rose left, those connections and relationships had been established over years,” Turman said. “But now it’s just forming new ones.”