During the SCHS fall sports awards on Wednesday, Nov. 13, senior Mariah Walker committed to play Division 1 water polo at California State University, Long Beach for the 2020-2021 school year.
Walker has been playing water polo for over four years, beginning the summer before her freshman year. Walker started swimming when she was 12 years old, and her first exposure to water polo was during one of her swim practices.
“I saw people throwing a ball at the other side of the pool, and I was really confused because I was like, ‘Balls aren’t supposed to be in water. You guys are supposed to be swimming,’” Walker said. “So I went to try it out because I was getting really bored of swimming…I wanted to try something new that still involves staying in water, and I just fell in love with it.”
She continued to play water polo, quickly learning the harsh realities of the sport.
“The very first game I played I had internal bruising all around my chest. It was very intense,” Walker said. “It’s very intense because people try to find the littlest ways to hurt you, and it’s not chill at all.”
Walker believes that she has improved a lot since the first time she played the sport.
“Back then, I couldn’t play a whole game without being subbed out,” Walker said. “Now, I can play a whole game and play multiple in a day and still have the energy to do other stuff rather than going home and sleeping and all that.”
Walker said she is thrilled but anxious to play for CSU Long Beach.
“Yeah I’m really excited and ready to go play,” Walker said. “I’m very nervous about going to Long Beach, but it’s a good kind of nervous.”
Walker’s mother, Shameka Walker, recommended that Mariah choose a school that she would feel comfortable staying at.
“I told her not to compare the locations or the offers from the teams but pay attention to how she felt at the schools. She will be there for four years, and with spending so much time with your teammates, they become like family,” Shameka Walker said. “Mariah needed to feel comfortable with where she chose to attend, and she was the only one who could make that decision.”
Mariah Walker has had many people, like her parents, to support and help her throughout her water polo experience. Mariah Walker said her coaches, Aja Bumbaca and Ronni Gaustchi, were also mentors. With the help of these important figures and her own determination, she succeeded.
“Mariah knows that I am her biggest fan and that I will be at almost every game,” Shameka Walker said. “Her sister, myself, her father, and the rest of our family will be there to support her every step of the way.”
Bumbaca has helped and supported Mariah and said she is glad that Mariah has had this special opportunity.
“I’m extremely proud of Mariah,” Bumbaca said. “This is an incredible opportunity for Mariah because she is very hardworking and a natural leader because she helps those who need help.”
Mariah Walker said that taking chances and learning from her experiences helped her in achieving a spot at her dream school, and she recommended other students do the same.
“Keep playing… take any opportunity because those will help you become better,” Mariah Walker said. “It’ll teach you to try a lot more and want to succeed more.”