Aquinas High School student-athletes have a new sport to stretch their athletic abilities as the Catholic school introduced a boys water polo team this year.
According to Athletic Director Chris Ybarra, the new sport was added due to student interest, and it supplements the school’s water sports, adding to the boys and girls swim teams.
According to Ybarra, many people are surprised to learn that the school, without a pool of its own, participates in water sports. The school’s swim teams previously practiced at Pacific High School but this year the water sports are practicing at the newly updated pool at Arrowhead Country Club.
Access to the pool, along with a coach and students willing to commit to the sport were the key factors in enabling the school to add the program, Ybarra added.
Aquinas introduced the sport with just a varsity boys team but is open to expanding the program in the coming years if there is enough student interest, Ybarra said. It could grow to include girls teams.
Swim Coach Marcus James heads the team that includes 12 players, none of which are seniors. Ybarra says this will help the fledgling program retain and build on the lessons learned in its first year.
Since the other schools in the Ambassador League ⎯ in which Aquinas competes with other private schools in other sports ⎯ do not have water polo teams, Aquinas is “cross-leaguing” and competing in the Citrus Belt League. The CBL includes the established teams at Redlands High, Citrus Valley, Redlands East Valley and Yucaipa High.
“We’ve got to start from the bottom and work our way up, and our kids have worked extremely hard,” Ybarra said. “They understand it’s a learning year. Hopefully, next year they’ll have a lot more confidence and experience that will put them in a position to do very well.”
Aquinas had its first league game on Wednesday, Oct. 2, and played Yucaipa High School on Monday, Oct. 7.
“Just to be able to put a team in the pool and to be able to compete is a win,” Ybarra added.