Windansea Water Polo Club resurfaces in Hawaii after five years
The offseason program for La Jolla High School water polo players takes two first-place trophies in the Hawaiian Invitational tournament.
With a couple of championship trophies and a multitude of memories in their bags, 65 La Jolla High School water polo players have returned from the 2023 Hawaiian Invitational Water Polo Tournament on Oahu.
The players — part of La Jolla High water polo coach Tom Atwell’s offseason Windansea Water Polo Club — flew to Hawaii to play July 31 through Aug. 6.
The club made the trip 15 times previously as a buildup to the high school water polo season, but not since 2018. This year, the season started Aug. 14.
The club provides “opportunities for kids who will be attending La Jolla High to do some offseason strength training,” Atwell said.
At this year’s Hawaiian Invitational, Windansea’s U18 (under-18) boys team took the first-place trophy, as did one of Atwell’s two U14 boys teams. The other U14 boys team finished fourth.
The U18 girls team finished fourth, the U16 girls 10th and the U16 boys 11th.
All six teams did “super well,” Atwell said. He added that the players showed skill and sportsmanship, especially considering that many of them had never played as a team before and that the age ranges in each group were wide.
The tournament was a “great experience bringing the team together,” said senior Weston Bancroft, a member of the U18 boys team.
He and 21 of the older boys stayed on Oahu with Atwell an extra week to train. During that time, a wildfire killed more than 100 people and caused severe damage on neighboring Maui.
“There was one night where there were like 70 mph winds blowing,” Atwell said. Ocean swims the next day were canceled because the water was a mess.
The players had never experienced such windy conditions, senior Soren Martin said, though in the pool “it wasn’t too bad; sometimes you noticed the ball go to the side.”
Though Oahu remained “beautiful and sunny,” Atwell felt terrible about the tragedy unfolding on Maui.
During the tournament week, players were in the water daily but also had time for planned excursions.
“The whole point was to get the high school teams to bond,” Atwell said.
The teams hiked trails, bodysurfed, visited waterfalls and explored caves, among other adventures.
The rest of the time, the players relaxed in the hotel together, “just hanging out as much as we could,” Bancroft said. “It was pretty awesome.”
Spending that much time together was great, Martin said.
“The whole idea is that when you’re in high school, or walking around, that you talk to each other,” Atwell said. “The seniors talk to the freshmen, the boys talk to the girls. … [We’re] all part of a family … instead of having everyone in their own little world.”
The tournament and trip “just brought us together more than ... if we didn’t go,” Bancroft said.
The return of the trip also was motivated by the ongoing closure of the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex for renovations. The pool on the La Jolla High campus has been closed since May. The LJHS water polo teams have been practicing the past week in the pool at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla.
“The Bishop’s School has been gracious enough to give us some pool time,” Atwell said. But he’s looking forward to his teams being able to get back in their home pool at Coggan, which is scheduled to reopen Monday, Sept. 25. ◆
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