Jason Gall is the head coach of the women's water polo team at CSU Bakersfield. He started playing himself when he was just five years old and decided to start a club in Bakersfield that has been going for the last nine years. Now he's finally seeing the fruits of all that work.
"It takes a lot to develop into a good water polo player," Gall said. "Kids like Patrick and Ellie have been playing for 7, 8, 9 years, that's almost how long it takes to get to that elite level."
17 year old Patrick Burke from Garces and 14 year old Elizabeth Cruz from Centennial have officially gotten to that level as they became the first two players from Bakersfield to earn a tryout for the junior national team. "It's extremely rare considering how competitive water polo is. Especially here in California," said Gall.
The two made it through a long selection process that started with thousands, then hundreds and then the final 46 nationally. Cruz and Burke are among those 46. "I almost didn't believe it," said Burke on his selection. "I was like 'Wow, Bakersfield reppin'!"
Burke already went to his tryout and although he missed out on making the team he got the chance to meet the captain of the US senior national team, Tony Azevedo. "I met him in the bathroom," Burke recalled.
While the two making it to such a stage is incredible for the Bakersfield Water Polo Club, Cruz's story is truly impressive. Since there isn't a water polo team at Centennial all of her play has come from club and is often the only girl in a sea of boys.
Her goal is to become and Olympian. Her mom, Christy Cruz, knows just how tall an order that is but thanks to this tryout thinks the dream is a little more real. "We just have to say bye-bye to our little 14 year old," she said. "Go off to camp and four grueling days of workouts."
Gall said even if they don't make it to the next stage just getting this far "is a huge success."
Cruz's tryout is May 27th-30th in Huntington Beach.
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