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NSA teacher swims with sister, 80-year-old mom

A Nansemond-Suffolk Academy teacher will participate in a national synchronized swimming meet in Florida this weekend.

At 54, Kim Wagner, who teaches first grade at NSA and also is the assistant swim coach, is actually the youngest of the trio with which she will perform in the U.S. Masters Championships, a meet for synchronized swimmers over the age of 21.

The other members of the trio? Her 57-year-old sister and their 80-year-old mother.

Wagner believes the three are the first trio including a mother and her two daughters ever to compete in synchronized swimming.

“I think it’s a really cool opportunity,” Wagner said by phone Tuesday from Clermont, Fla., where the meet will begin Thursday. “Both my sister and I feel very lucky.”

Wagner and her sister, Kathy Brown, and their mother, Patricia Rankin, arrived early so they could practice together. Brown and Rankin live in New York, where the family is from originally.

One team member living several states away from the others has presented unique challenges.

“We have gotten together several times in the last year and gotten the routines written,” Wagner said. “My sister and I choreographed them.”

The two sisters participated in synchronized swimming when they were young, through a community program near their home in western New York.

“My mother was our carpool person,” Wagner said. “But after we left synchronized swimming and went off to college and did our own thing, she got interested in it.”

Brown started teaching Rankin the art of synchronized swimming, in which athletes perform a routine of synchronized moves and lifts in the water, set to music. Synchronized swimmers must not touch the bottom of the pool during their routine, even during the lifts.

It requires upper and lower body strength, Wagner said. She and her sister lift their mother above the water during their routine.

“I’ve had to go back into some strength training,” Wagner said. “It takes a lot of strength in your legs to do a boost up. It takes a lot of arm strength, too.”

Excellent aerobic fitness is required as well, she said.

“I’ve been weight training and aerobic training to get my lungs back,” she said. “I had a really difficult time holding my breath.”

Wagner said it was her mother’s idea to do a trio with her daughters. She saw a mother-daughter duet at last year’s competition and talked her daughters into it.

“I think it’s amazing she has that stamina to do what we’re doing,” Wagner said. “It’s amazing, especially since she did not grow up doing it.”

The three will compete in a technical routine on Friday and a free routine on Saturday. They will compete in the 60-69 age category, as that is the average of their ages.

There won’t be any doubt from the music that the three swimmers are related. Their technical routine, one minute and 40 seconds long, is set to the ABBA song “Does Your Mother Know.” Their free routine, three minutes long, is to Meghan Trainor’s song “Mom.”

Wagner said practice has been going well this week.

“We feel like we’re going to be really ready on Friday,” she said.