Balancing Water Polo: A Look at the 2018-19 Dual Sport Athletes

While many student-athletes compete in multiple sports as prepsters, it is a select few that can uphold the demands of academics and more than one sport on the collegiate level.

On February 16, Chapman’s Roisin Cunningham Smythe competed in the 1-meter at the SCIAC Diving Championships at Pomona-Pitzer (finishing 19th) and hurried to a home water polo match, picking up a steal against Toronto later in the day. Thus far, she has tallied 15 steals, drawn 11 exclusions and dished out seven assists in 24 games for the Panthers.

Cunningham Smythe is just one example of the 43 women’s and 15 men’s water polo players who pull double duty for their respective schools.

UC San Diego sophomore Ciara Franke has found success in the pool in both swimming and water polo. She was an All-American in four swimming events as a freshman in 2018 (200 free, 200 free relay, 400 free relay, 800 free relay) and was named to the WWPA All-Freshman Team in water polo. Thus far in 2019, Franke was the runnerup in the 200 freestyle at the NCAA Division II Championships, finished third with the 400 freestyle relay, fourth with the 200 freestyle relay and seventh with the 800 freestyle relay. The sophomore also has earned all MPSF second team honors (500 free) and MPSF All-Academic honors for swimming and scored 39 goals and added 18 steals and seven assists for the Triton’s water polo team.

Austin College’s Brooke Le and Lexi Wong were part of the school record 200 medley relay and 400 free relay team, which finished fifth at the 2019 SCIAC Championships.

Cal Tech’s Brittany Percin advanced to the Division III Championships, finishing 20th in the 200 butterfly, 43rd in the 200 freestyle, and 53rd in the 100 freestyle.

Carthage’s Heather Walker swam at Division III nationals in the 200 freestyle relay (23rd), 400 freestyle relay (26th), and 200 medley relay (31st).

Redlands’ Wendy McAleer competed in three events at the NCAA Division III Championships, finishing 24th in the 200 butterfly, 27th in the 100 butterfly and 45th in 200 IM.

Monmouth’s Miranda Pasky is all over the water polo stat sheet for the Scots with 13 goals, 23 assists and 22 steals in 15 contests. Teammate Marissa Logan has added 16 goals, 16 assists and 10 steals in 15 games. Brittany Lira has chipped in 10 goals and 13 steals in 15 appearances.

Saint Francis (PA)’s Erin O’Neill has turned in 26 steals, seven goals and seven assists.

Of the double dippers we identified, 52 of them (38 women, 14 men) count swimming as their second sport, two are divers (both women), two are soccer players (both women), one plays basketball – Cal Tech’s Samantha D’Costa – and one – Austin College’s AJ Pritchard – plays baseball. Pritchard didn’t appear in any water polo games as a freshman last fall, but has already made 2 relief appearances on the mound for the Roos’ baseball team.

Men’s water polo is played in the fall with the NCAA Championships ending on Dec. 2.

Women’s water polo begins in the thick of swimming season, kicking off in January and lasting until May. In many cases female swimmers join their water polo teams after concluding championship season, although some do both throughout the winter and spring.

In researching the crossover athletes, SwimSwam found that several student-athletes have tried unsuccessfully to pull off the demands of two-sport participation and cut their workload to one sport after a season or sometimes in the midst of one.

Due to the high demands, many times a choice is made to specialize in one sport when entering college.

Just this week, high school water polo All-American Claire Tuttle verbally committed to the University of Michigan for swimming only.

*In addition to the swimming and water polo dual sport athletes, research also uncovered Pomona-Pitzer’s Nicholas Borowsky, who competes in both swimming (freestyle) and cross country and Johns Hopkins’ Mikayla Bisignani, who competes in swimming (freestyle) and outdoor track and field (throws).

A full list of dual sport water polo athletes is below.

School Name Second Sport
Austin College Brooke Le Swimming
Lexi Wong Swimming
Matea Stanisic Swimming
Brown Julia Armitage Swimming
Charlotte Rosenberg Swimming
Sarah Welch Swimming
Tiffany Zhao Swimming
Cal Tech Samantha D’Costa Basketball
Isabella Dula Swimming
Olivia Durrett Swimming
Hana Keller Soccer
Yuying Lin Swimming
Brittany Percin Swimming
Zoe Rock Soccer
Gemma Takahashi Swimming
Carthage Alyssa Schwarz Swimming
Sophie Flott Swimming
Heather Walker Swimming
Izzy Bertaud Swimming
Autumn Rajevich Swimming
Grace Sakry Swimming
Chapman Paige Gurich Swimming (Free & Back)
Joanna Spyrou Swimming (IM & Free)
Marla Mirho Swimming (Free)
Roisin Cunningham Smythe Swimming & Diving (Diver)
Monmouth College Miranda Pasky Swimming
Lindsey Turnquist Swimming
Marissa Logan Swimming
Cynthia Johnson Swimming
Brittany Lira Swimming
Redlands Wendy McAleer Swimming
Courtney Gray Swimming
Saint Francis Erin O’Neill Swimming
Rebecca Pendleton Swimming
Julia Bradford Swimming
Camillie Nguyen Swimming
UC San Diego Ciara Franke Swimming (Freestyle)
VMI Maddie Berry Swimming (Freestyle)
Makenna Moore Swimming (Freestyle)
Genevieve Petrassi Swimming (Freestyle)
Zoe Salafatinos Swimming (Freestyle)
Washington & Jefferson Jazmin Uhler Swimming & Diving (Diver)
Kiera MacWhinnie Swimming (Freestyle, Backstroke, Butterfly)
Men
Austin College Tanner O’Dwyer Swimming
Ben Rafalski Swimming
Max Saenz Swimming
Eric Brown Swimming
Tyler Brown Swimming
AJ Pritchard Baseball
Cal Tech Austin Harvard Swimming
Alex Janosi Swimming
Bradley Justice Swimming
Andy Rothstein Swimming
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Peter Blumberg Swimming (Freestyle, Butterfly)
Pomona-Pitzer Zach Senator Swimming (Freestyle)
Redlands Chris Allen Swimming
Kyle Jackson Swimming
Mitchell Walker Swimming

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Socal swimmer

You missed lots of California schools like Cal Bapt, Concordia, Fresno Pacific to name a few.

Brian

You left off St. Francis College Brooklyn. With 4 guys that did both and 6 men

Mark Rauterkus

I figure this is a great article that just begins to scratch the surface. The real upside, IMHO, is to play water polo AFTER the competitive swimming has ended. Club water polo squads are often loaded with graduate students and ex-swimmers who are spent with eligibility, had a clash with schedule or coach, and just found water polo to be lots of fun and still serious about fitness / conditioning / competitions. But, as a challenge, we’ve got to take a little bit of time with the age group swimmers and get them exposure to water polo and SKWIM so that when the time comes to buck up for something else, they’re warm to the ideas, the team concepts, the… Read more »

Swims2day

Love the two sport idea. For the student athletes it keeps their careers interesting and allows them to fulfill their competitive desires. I heard a funny quote once about swimming and water polo: “water polo has the unique ability of taking exceptionally good swimmers and developing them into just mediocre players.”

Old Lobo

Rick Klatt has long integrated water polo with his swim program in Fresno–At one time he had posted some interesting articles explaining his philosophy and how he combines the two sports. Knowing Rick, I doubt he compromised on either sport.

Mako Master

This is true. He coaches two of my sons and uses polo to increase speed, power, leg strength and aerobic stamina. It also gives the kids a mental break from swimming and is great for team bonding. He has made me a believer and the kids love swimming for him and have had tremendous improvements.

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