The merger between two central Ohio synchronized swimming programs has proven successful, as 24 area girls will be competing in the Junior Olympics Championships from Friday, June 24, though July 2 in Long Island, New York.

The merger between two central Ohio synchronized swimming programs has proven successful, as 24 area girls will be competing in the Junior Olympics Championships from Friday, June 24, though July 2 in Long Island, New York.

The Columbus Coralinas and Ohio Synchro programs combined last September following the retirement of longtime Coralinas director Denise Shively.

"The Coralinas had declining numbers, but Denise wanted to make sure her girls had somewhere to continue after she stepped down, so she approached us," Ohio Coralinas Synchro head coach Anna Farmer said. "It's been great. We've got 11 coaches overall taking care of all of the combined age groups. This is the largest group we've ever taken to nationals."

The area participants will compete in seven events spanning three age groups.

"We've got girls from Hilliard, Upper Arlington, Dublin, Olentangy, New Albany, Fairfield Union, Sylvania, Columbus Academy and throughout central Ohio," Farmer said. "To get to this stage, these girls had to finish among the top three in team performances or win in solo performances at the regional (May 21 in Lansing, Michigan)."

Competing as a team in the 12-and-under age group will be Lilly Byrne (Hilliard City Schools), Sarina Ghadiali (Upper Arlington Schools), Annie Hauenstein (Columbus City Schools), Ryann Kanable (Olentangy Local Schools), Annabelle Krygier (Wellington), Talia Lopresti (Columbus Academy), Lilly Ortiz (Cypress Christian) and Greta Schantz (Olentangy).

Lopresti and Ortiz also will compete in a duet.

Hauenstein, one of the newest members of the team, has conducted fundraisers to help her mother pay for lessons and cover travel expenses.

"I've only been practicing with the team for two months," she said. "But I knew a lot of the girls before and I had to do some things to earn some money (to defray costs). I had a (free) lemonade stand (at the Clintonville Farmers Market) last year and people would tip me. The Colonial Candy Shoppe donated chocolates for me to sell.

"To go on the trip, we had a garage sale and I sold clothes, dolls, toys and stuff. My mom said we made about $1,300. She's going with me. I'm a little excited and nervous. I need to make sure I remember to count when I'm holding my breath under water."

In the 13-15 age group, competing as a team will be Sarah Farmer (Fairfield Union Local Schools), Claire Gbur (Hilliard), Bengisu Kara (Hilliard), Noelle Meeker (Olentangy), Shannon Naylon (Olentangy), Marin Pema (Cypress Christian), Carli Ryan (Hilliard), Leah Ryzenman (New Albany-Plain Local Schools), Carissa Schroeder (Westerville City Schools), Natalie Smith (Olentangy) and Katie Woollard (Hilliard) as well as Kassidy Gall (Sylvania Schools).

Farmer also will perform a solo routine and join Smith in a duet.

In the 16-19 age group, competing as a combo will be Maria Basile (Olentangy), Anna Bobrova (Dublin City Schools), Kerstyn Gay (Dublin), Tessa Lopresti (Columbus Academy) and Gabrielle VanHouwe (Village Academy).

Basile and VanHouwe also will compete in a duet.

"I went to nationals for the first time last year (in Greensboro, North Carolina) and had a lot of fun and we did well," said Gay, originally from the Ohio Synchro program. "This is my fourth year in the program. We all have worked well together, so this is a lot of fun.

"My mom and grandma are coming with me. My mom really enjoys watching it."