Synchro Q&A: Stanford Coach Sara Lowe

Photo Courtesy: Stanford University

By Dax Lowery

Sara Lowe, now in her fifth season as head coach of the Stanford University synchronized swimming team, hopes to lead the Cardinal to another title as the U.S. Collegiate Championships get set to begin in Columbus, Ohio, this week.

Lowe, who guided Stanford to its eighth collegiate title last year in Gainesville, Fla., also has been heavily involved as a coach at different levels of USA Synchro, including with the Senior, Junior, 13-15 and 12 & Under national teams. Before that, she was a four-time member of the U.S. Senior National Team and won team bronze at the 2004 Olympic Games and team gold at the 2003 Pan American Games.

The U.S. Collegiate Championships are coming up. You’re the defending champion and the school has won the title eight times. How is Stanford looking?

Our Stanford team looks strong going into the 2017 Collegiate Championships. It was exciting to win last year and our big goal for 2017 is to repeat.

The group has worked hard this season to make their routines faster and more intricate, while keeping them technically clean. They intentionally wrote routines that were more internationally competitive, which I think will help them in other meets. They were inspired by dance and synchronized swimming routines from multiple countries. I can’t wait to see how our student-athletes perform at Ohio State.

How did you get involved in synchro? When did you know that you were talented enough for national teams?

My mom was a synchronized swimmer growing up and competed in college, so I was exposed to it at a young age. My grandmother wanted me to be a synchronized swimmer and taught me different elements of the sport in her backyard lake in Texas. A class was offered one summer at Northlake College and I signed up. I could barely swim one lap across the pool, so I doubt anyone thought that I had much promise.

I stuck with it, and in 1999, I moved to California to train with the Santa Clara Aquamaids. The following year, I was named to my first National Team and realized that my goal of becoming an Olympian could become a reality.

You won bronze in team at the 2004 Olympics. Did you expect to medal? What was the experience like? How do you draw on that experience as a coach? And where is that medal now?

Winning an Olympic medal was an amazing experience. However, the training and camaraderie I shared with my teammates leading up to the Olympics are what inspire me in my life now. There were many times when I did not think we could physically push any harder and yet we managed to find a way to achieve our goal. Those moments showed me that my mind is stronger than my body, and I have kept them with me as I have faced challenges in life.

I often tell my student-athletes stories of training and the positive and negative experiences that I had throughout my athletic career.

My medal is in a plastic bag in my bedside table.

How did you get into coaching?

I got into coaching during my senior year at Stanford. I really enjoy working with younger athletes and helping them achieve their goals in and out of the water.

You’ve been the head coach for every level of the U.S. national teams. How is each level different and what did you learn from that experience? What makes an elite synchro athlete? Are you still involved with the national teams?

I have coached National Team athletes aged 10 to 25, and really enjoy working with the different levels within the U.S. National Team system. I find that each age has its own challenges and rewards, and working with each provides a fun and healthy balance of my coaching skill development.

The best elite athletes have a great work ethic and high level of discipline.

My assistant coach, Megan Azebu, and I, will coach the 13-15 U.S. National Team this summer. These athletes will compete at the Comen Cup in Portugal.

What’s the best part about being Stanford’s head coach?

The best part is that I get to watch and contribute to the development of our young student-athletes and help them achieve their goals in the water, the classroom, and in life. They work hard in the water each day while maintaining high academic standards and staff positions on campus. They inspire me to continuously set higher goals for myself and improve my coaching skills.

About the U.S. Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Championships

The U.S. Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Championships will be held March 23-25 at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on the campus of Ohio State University. Stanford is the defending champion, having won its eighth U.S. Collegiate title last year in Gainesville, Fla. Ohio State last hosted the event in 2015, when it captured the Team Trophy. Tickets can be purchased here.