The Meraquas of Irvine is proud to have a strong team of dedicated and highly credentialed coaches with extensive experience in coaching and judging.  



Candy Hipp

Head Coach Candace "Candy" Hipp has coached the Junior, 16-19, 13-15, and 12&Under Age Groups to the national Junior Olympic level. She herself is a 1982 United States Junior Team Champion, a Senior National Finalist, and a Masters Champion, age 35-39, in duet, trio and team.  Candy's dedication to the team and her coaching approach can be seen in the video clip on the classes page.

Contact Coach Candy:

Irene Hawes

Irene Hawes has had an extensive career in synchronized swimming from three time National Champion at The Ohio State University, to celebrated coach and highly esteemed judge in the synchro world, most recently culminating in the pinnacle event of this sport, to be THE JUDGE representing the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

She has been head coach for several teams and has helped coach numerous Age Group National Finalists and Champions, Junior National finalists and National Teams participants, among others.  She has personally coached four athletes who continued on to Olympic Teams for the US and Canada.

Irene started judging at 16 years old and progressed rapidly to more complex judging levels.  She is one of the few Level A judges in the United States, which enables her to judge at all World Championships and the Olympics. She has judged at the Beijing Olympics Qualifier and the London Olympics Qualifier as well as the 2009 and 2015 World Championships.


Brittany Varkel

Brittany Varkel swam for 11 years first with the Coralettes of Southern Cal then with Meraquas.  She was a Finalist at Age Group Nationals in Solo, Duet, and Team several times and placed 3rd place at West Zones.  She has been in the Top 7 in US Juniors in team and has been a Finalist in Team at the US Junior Open.

Shannon Kelly-Jones

As a swimmer, Shannon Kelly-Jones competed for the Riverside Aquettes at the National level and earned many National Age Group titles. As a coach, she has been tremendously successful in ensuring a new generation of swimmers reach for their potential at the national Junior Olympic level.

Shannon herself has competed in Masters and has swum professionally in performance groups such as Hollywood Synchro and Aqualilies.  In addition, she has appeared as a synchro swimmer in several music videos and commercials.  Her most recent movie work was The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as Assistant choreographer/coach for the mermaids.


Victoria Hawes

Tori Hawes swam for the Riverside AQuettes,  winning two team national championships before taking a break to focus on school. She stayed involved in synchro by pursuing her judging certifications:  At 16 years old, she received her association level judging certification and not long after, she was certified for regional judging in 2009.

She attended The Ohio State University from 2010-2014 and was a member of Buckeye Squad synchro team each year.  She also assisted as a figure coach for the Ohio Synchro Swim Club. In 2013, she reached the zone/collegiate level certification. In 2014 she swam a duet for the Buckeye Squad.  She has now returned to the coach the Meraquas.

Nessa P

Nessa Parkinen

Nessa swam for Coralettes/Meraquas: 1998-2007 and was a part of  2004-2007 Junior National Team Finalist, 2000-2007 Age Group National Team Finalist, and 2007 Age Group National Trio Finalist. She also swam at University of Arizona SplashCats Synchronized Swimming: 2007-2011 and was a 2008 Collegiate National Club Champions, 2008-2011 Collegiate National Team Finalist, 2011 Collegiate National Duet Finalist, and 2011 Collegiate National Figures 5th Place Finisher.

Nessa is a Doctor of Chiropractor and she is dedicated to serving her community as a wellness advocate. Her focus is to help her community move well and feel well. She is excited to combine her knowledge of biomechanics, strength and conditioning, and nutrition with her competitive synchronized swimming background to help the Meraquas excel in every way.


Hailey Hipp

Hailey Hipp has a great time working with the class members, breaking down synchronized swimming to the basics that beginner synchro swimmers can understand and embrace.  She is a former team member of both the Southern California Coralettes and the Meraquas of Irvine and previously competed at the National Age Group Level.
Jackie Hamilton

Jackie Hamilton

Guest coach Jackie Hamilton brings her extraordinary background to her Flexibility and Acrobatics clinics with the team.  She started out in competitive gymnastics and dance, then pursued competitive cheerleading during high school and college and in All Star teams. She cheered for six years with the Los Angeles Rams stunt team and is currently a professional cheerleading judge for national and international competitions.  She is also a certified CorePower Yoga instructor and enjoys working with young athletes to help them reach their goals.