For good reason, Santa Clara Aquamaids Marketing & Communications Chair Kay Lau, is celebrating. And she couldn’t be more proud of her two superstar swimmers, Elle Billman and Amanda Urke. Both, you see were selected to Stanford University’s synchronized swim team for the coming year. No one can remember the last time prestigious Stanford University recruited two swimmers from a world-wide pool (pun intended!) of elite athletes. Out of a total of three recruits we are told, Stanford chose two from hometown Santa Clara Aquamaids Synchronized Swim Team.
If you are familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s definition of “Outliers”, these two athletes certainly qualify. An outlier is one who – after 10,000 hours practice, is expert in their endeavor.
E-mail interviews with the champion swimmers provide us with a glimpse of what makes these athletes truly special.
“My name is Amanda Urke and I am currently a senior in high school swimming for the Santa Clara Aquamaids synchronized swimming club. I have done synchro since the second grade, though I really started to realize my love for the sport and my drive to excel at the end of middle school. The summer before 11th grade, I made the extremely difficult decision to move away from home and family in Minnesota to pursue more elite training and my goals of making the US National Team and swimming for Stanford’s renowned collegiate team. Being in California has brought the most challenging, enriching, and ultimately rewarding experiences of my life. Highlights include being a member of the US Junior National Squad in 2014 and bringing home gold at the UANA Pan American Championships in August of 2014 with my team, the Santa Clara Aquamaids. And finally, this fall, I was officially recruited and accepted by Stanford University for their incoming class of 2019. I am absolutely thrilled by this opportunity to advance my career in synchro while pursuing an excellent education. Maintaining my academics while training at least six hours a day, six days a week is not easy, but in the end, the effort is well worth it. I am beyond excited to begin another four years of my life as a Stanford athlete!”
Elle Billman shares Urke’s excitement as well as discipline. “I have been swimming for the Santa Clara Aquamaids since I was in fourth grade. I first found my passion for synchronized swimming while watching a water show put on by the Santa Clara Aquamaids. Ever since then I have been balancing my time between my academics and synchro. Along the way I have competed at national and international competitions in countries including Peru and Colombia. During my sophomore year of high school I made the 13-15 U.S. National Team and represented the United States of America at the UANA Pan American Championships. Balancing synchro and school has been trying, yet I always held on to the belief that I could achieve my dream. This past year my dream became a reality when I was recruited to Stanford University not only for my talents in the pool, but also for my high academics and other extracurricular activities. I look forward to continuing my synchro and academic careers at Stanford University next year!”
As for the Aquamaids, they continue to chalk up amazing results and building world-class athletes. SportStars has been fortunate to cover the team multiple times. For glimpses into the world of synchronized swim team, visit these stories.