Phoenix Desert Vista High freshman Paige Hacker was one of three East Valley youths named to the U.S.A. 7 Water Polo cadet teams earlier this year. Kolby Krystofik and Paul Miernicki were named to the men’s traveling team and will participate in the North American Championships, scheduled for Dec. 27-30 in Calgary, Alberta.
Hacker, an ‘A’ student who occasionally gets a ‘B’ ’ according to her mother, Judy, is a member of the women’s team.
Athletes were selected to join the national team after attending a series of tryouts to pare down the list to 14 athletes per zone. Two athletes from each zone were selected to join the cadet national team.
“If you like swimming and an on-land sport like basketball, soccer or even hockey, then odds are you’ll like water polo,” Hacker said.
Her squad does not have any travel scheduled for this year (part of the team will travel next year to the Pan America Games), so its main focus was on the summer camp.
“The cadet team was a great experience, it showed me what the next level of competition is going to be like and how hard I need to work out,” she said.
“When I got back this summer, I joined the Desert Vista swim team to get back into condition.”
With the Thunder, she made it to the 5A Central Region meet, competing in the 200 individual medley despite having only participated in the race twice in the past two years.
“I did well though, I got third in prelims and sixth in finals,” Hacker said. “Because I went to the regional meet, I ended up getting a letter.”
Hacker has been swimming since she was 5 years old. Two years ago, she began playing water polo after her club swim team coach added a 30-minute session following practice in place of dry land workouts.
“I immediately liked it because it combined everything I liked about sports into one game,” Hacker said. “I got to be physical when I had to, got to shoot hard and swim. By the second practice I was totally hooked and had to join the club team.”
Then there was a bonus for Hacker: “My coaches are awesome and make it fun, I always look forward to going (to practice).”
Hacker plays with the Sun Devil Water Polo Club. “I really like the teamwork involved, too. It’s not like swimming where it’s just about your events and how you do in your races. It’s totally a team sport where you have to trust other people and interact with them at practice.”
The team practices three times a week at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center on the Arizona State University campus. Hacker also participates in club swimming.
Between school, swimming and water polo, she still manages to find some spare time.
“I love to play music,” she said. “I play the bass guitar for a band with my friends. I also like writing stories and just hanging out with my friends at my house or wherever.”
But she thoroughly enjoys her water sports. After competing in the Junior Olympics last summer with a team from Texas, she has plans to play with a team based in Las Vegas next August.
“We hope to someday have enough girls to take an Arizona team to the Junior Olympics,” she said. “It might not happen for me but someday I would like to see that happen.”
Being just a freshman, Hacker hasn’t made firm plans as to where she wants to attend college, but she is sure of one thing.
“In the future, I would love to play in college. I’ve watched the ASU women’s team play their home games and would love to be a part of that.”
Along with vowing to be involved in polo as a lifelong sport (“One way or another I know I’m going to be playing water polo until I physically can’t anymore”), Hacker also has Olympic aspirations and realizes she will “have to work harder than I ever have for anything, but it would definitely be worth it.”
With the practice regimen and schedule she described, I can’t imagine her working much harder.
The fall season of the Skyline Hoops League ended Nov. 11 with its Fall Fury Tournament. The league, composed of four divisions with more than 16 teams and 140 participants, was conducted by the Mesa Skyline High School basketball coaching staff.
League and tournament champions were crowned along with skill competition winners at the Nov. 14 Green and Gold Blowout.
The spring session of the league is slated to begin in March. Visit
www.skylinebasketball.com or call (480) 472-9470.
Skyline’s All-League teams
Silver division, Grades 3-5:Harlee Moore, Cheyenne Weston, Josue Garza, Jaden Duke, Zach Dunn, Michael Agosto, Adam Abatacola, Devin DePriest, Carlos Rivera, Jacob Hernandez, J.T. Hatch, Noah Young
Green division, Grade 6Thomas Newman, Joseph Ivan, Andrew Fairbanks, Cody Nelson, Cody Bender, J.J. Lagasca, Devin Henderson, Derek Goslin, Joey Webster, Anthony Marshall, Kelby Reed, Jacob Fitzgerald
Gold division, Grades 7-8Kyle Nelson, Vinny Pante, Kevin Torres, Jonathan Ramsubhag, Larry Hoggard, Justin Addie, Rich Pagels, Elijah Malloy, Nick Armijo, Dalton Rogers
Team champions: Gold - Season: Team 3 Smith; Tourney: Team 4 Smith; Green - Season: Team 3 Taft, Tourney: Team 3 Taft; Silver - Season: Team 6 Johnson/Patterson; Tourney: Team 6 Johnson/Patterson