UIW's First National Championship Won by Artistic Swimming Team

April 5, 2024

In a historic win, UIW’s artistic swimming team (photo courtesy U.S.A. Artistic Swimming) brought home the University's first national championship by taking first place at the U.S.A. Collegiate National Artistic Swimming Championship.

After months of training and preparation, UIW’s artistic swimming team demonstrated their exceptional level of skill and athleticism, competing against some of the best artistic swimming teams from across the nation. Although the scores between the top two teams were tight, UIW pulled off the win with a total of 95 points, outdoing second place winner Stanford University who earned 92 points and third place winner Texas Women’s University with 69 points.

“There's a lot that people don't know about the sport,” remarked Coach Alyson Haylor, UIW head artistic swimming coach. “The challenge of pushing your body to the absolute limit by having to stay in character during a performance and come up for those precious seconds where you are able to breathe.”

Haylor explained that artistic swimmers practice hundreds of hours for three minutes of perfection during their performance. The practice hours go beyond rehearsing a routine and perfecting their movements – the swimmers must also learn to place an immense amount of trust in one another to strengthen the quality of their performance.

Haylor has an extensive personal background in the world of artistic swimming. She started participating in the sport at eight years old and gradually fell in love with it.

The sport has remained a part of her life in different ways. She began coaching in 2008 to help support her family during the economic recession at the age of 16. She also led young swimmers as the captain of the U.S.A. Junior National Team in 2012.

Haylor now serves as the head artistic swimming coach at UIW, fulfilling her dream of coaching at the collegiate level. She has created great bonds with the UIW artistic swim team and fellow coaches Marialaura Villasana and Juliana Damico, as they collectively strive to be the best.

“UIW has a lot of diversity, skill, raw talent and depth, which is beautiful to see,” noted Haylor. “Our swimmers just want to be the best that they can be and we as staff want to be the best that we can be for them. I think this really helped us at Nationals throughout this whole year.”

UIW artistic swimming team member and 2024 national champion, Camryn Hooey, also shares similar sentiments on how the diversity of her team helps to strength the team’s dynamic.

 “Given that UIW’s artistic swimming team is comprised predominantly of international members, we find ourselves far from our families,” she shared. "While this may be viewed by some as a vulnerability, in truth, it serves as one of our greatest assets. I think I speak for everyone when I say UIW artistic swimming has become a second family to us all, and I am immensely grateful to be a part of such a hardworking and driven group of women.”

In addition to the team taking first in the competition, Haylor was also recognized as Collegiate Coach of the Year by the U.S.A. Collegiate Artistic Swimming. The honor is still sinking in for Haylor, as she reflects on everyone who helped her achieve this milestone by supporting her as a head coach.

“I think having the help from the staff on that pool deck has made it all possible, so I can't take all the credit because that's just not where credit is due. I think it's truly a full team effort,” she explained. The pride that she feels in her staff also applies to her athletes, especially now as they have achieved such an important milestone in their careers and in the school’s history. It’s a feeling that the entire UIW artistic swimming family share, from coaches to students to alumni.

“They (UIW artistic swimmers) are examples of the holistic athlete and the holistic human. I think they're going to be set up for a lot of success in their life, hopefully because of the amount of growth that they'll experience in this team as individuals, but also as a group of people. I think we need more of that in the world. I'm just super proud of them and hope that they're enjoying their achievement, and that they feel as proud of themselves as the staff feels of them,” remarked Haylor.

Mary Michaels Pohlmann, UIW alumna and former artistic swimming team member, reached out to express how proud she feels of the UIW artistic swimming team. “We've come a long way since the water show I organized and performed in the Incarnate Word College (IWC) grotto pool in 1962. As an alum of IWC (now UIW), I am delighted to see that the UIW artistic swim team has won the 2024 Collegiate National Championship in duet and trio competition.”

“This accomplishment not only encompasses our team, but our university, our families, our professors, our years of commitment and dedication, our love for this sport, past and future generations and my 8-year-old self who started this journey,” remarked Erandi Aguirre, UIW artistic swimming team member and 2024 national champion. “As a senior student-athlete, and this being my last Collegiate Nationals, winning the championship means the world to me; I couldn't have asked for a better team to achieve this and to close this stage of my life.”