|HUNTINGTON BEACH, California, January 11. USA Water Polo's Annual Awards dinner is set for January 15 at the Hilton Costa Mesa in Costa Mesa, California in conjunction with the USA Water Polo Assembly. As established in 2010, the awards have each been named in honor of a person or persons who have made an extraordinary contribution to the sport. Winners were chosen through a zone nomination process and then reviewed by a national selection panel.
USA Water Polo Awards for 2010:
Monte Nitzkowski Distinguished Men's Coaching Award (Elite): James Graham, University of the Pacific Graham piloted the University of the Pacific Men's Water Polo team to a breakout season that saw them among the elites in men's collegiate water polo. Building off a top ten pre-season ranking Graham led the Tigers to victories over 6th ranked LMU and 11th ranked UC San Diego before pulling off perhaps a program defining victory toppling 3rd ranked Stanford in Palo Alto. The squad rose as high as fourth in the CWPA rankings, a first in the program's history before finishing seventh at the MPSF tourney.
Sandy Nitta Distinguished Women's Coaching Award (Elite): Kyle Witt, Los Angeles Water Polo and Loyola Marymount University Kyle Witt turned in a banner year on both the club and collegiate circuit. In the spring Witt saw his LMU Lions win the Western Water Polo Association Conference Championship and earn a berth at the NCAA Championships. At the NCAA's premier event the Lions took home fourth place which included a victory over defending champion, UCLA. At the helm of the 18 and Under Los Angeles Water Polo girls squad Witt coached the group to a Gold Medal at the S & R Sport Junior Olympics. Earlier in the summer Witt took the 20 & Under squad and Open Division group from LA Water Polo and snagged two more Gold Medals at the USA Water Polo National Championships.
Bill Barnett Distinguished Men's Coaching Award (Scholastic): Dan Leyson, Rose Bowl Water Polo Dan Leyson has been a driving force in the growth of the Rose Bowl club based in Pasadena, California. As coach of the 16U and 18U boys Leyson had teams among the top ten at the Junior Olympics while also claiming first place at the South Florida International Tournament, US Club Championships, and the City of Commerce International Tournament. Leyson also guided the 16U squad to a first place in the Ironman League where a Rose Bowl athlete was named MVP. With a focus on development Leyson saw five Rose players graduate into Division 1 last year alone and both Rose Bowl boys and girls have been active in ODP. He has also been a key piece of the women's program as they fielded teams in all age groups of Junior Olympics for the first time in 2010.
Doc Hunkler Distinguished Women's Coaching Award (Scholastic): Carroll Vaughan, Miami Riptides Water Polo and ODP Vaughan's age group club team, the Riptides, have been highly successful at national competitions since their beginning. The athletes she coaches have always represented the sport with respect and honor, further displaying the values of good sportsmanship she lives by. Through ODP Vaughan has been a model coach to the young athletes involved. Last year she was honored with the ODP Regional Coach of the year award for her outstanding leadership and hard work in the Olympic Development Program. She exemplifies excellence in everything she does. Her leadership has created several opportunities for young women in her school environment, club program, in the South East zone, and at the collegiate and national team levels.
Ted Newland Distinguished Men's Coaching Award (Developmental): Chad Arnold, Kingfish Water Polo and ODP Chad Arnold is a man of many hats in the water polo community of Pennsylvania. An ODP Head Coach, club coach with Kingfish Water Polo and a scholastic coach with Governor Mifflin, Arnold has been helping to promote and grow the sport in the keystone state. His history includes a stellar high school career at Governor Mifflin and then the University of Massachusetts during some of their most competitive years. In addition Arnold was recently selected as the top ODP coach at the boys East-West Regional Championships in 2010.
Brent Bohlender Distinguished Women's Coaching Award (Developmental): Ed Reynolds, SoCal Water Polo Ed Reynolds has been a staple for many years of the SoCal Water Polo club. Helping to mold young athletes with commitment and passion to the game Reynolds guided the 14U Girls squad to Gold at the 14U Champions Cup this fall. This past summer Reynolds and SoCal were among the elite, competing for medals at the Junior Olympics. Outside of coaching Reynolds also lends his time to USA Water Polo, serving on the Board of Directors.
Bret Bernard Distinguished Referee Award (Elite): Alex Stankevitch Stankevitch continued his ascent as one of the top international and domestic referees in 2010. The East Region Referee Instructor for USA Water Polo, Stankevitch has officiated the last 4 NCAA finals (Men/Women) including the 2009 and 2010 NCAA Men's Championship Final games and the 2009 NCAA Women's Championship Final game. Recognized by the CWPA as Referee of the Year in 2003, 2008 and 2009 he was also called upon to referee the 2010 Fisher Cup and Men's 20U National Championships. Internationally, Stankevitch was the American official at the 2010 FINA World League Super Final hosted by USA Water Polo in the summer of 2010.
Tom Hermstad Distinguished Referee Award (Scholastic): Don Lewis - Not only has Don Lewis been on the refereeing scene for many years, he has excelled at virtually every level and opportunity that has come his way. A veteran of many scholastic and USA Water Polo championship events he has also been very involved in the development of referees, most recently as the driving force behind the education and training of referees in the Mountain Zone, specifically in his home State of Utah.
Aaron Chaney Distinguished Referee Award (Developmental): Marc Rauchwarger (posthumous) Marc Rauchwarger was one of those rare and treasured referees that possessed so many of the intangible factors that make a good referee even better. He truly had a passion for the game and all that are involved including players of all ages and abilities, coaches, and his fellow officials. One cannot even begin to count the number of hours volunteered and miles driven over the years that Marc put in for nothing other than the betterment and development of the game. Always the first to step up for any and all opportunities to work on his craft as a referee he was eager to help facilitate the development of players whenever and wherever he could. Marc led by example and gave of himself constantly for the good of us all.
Barbara Kalbus Distinguished Volunteer Award: Scott Killinger - Scott Killinger has served the Northeast Zone of USA Water Polo as treasurer for over 15 years. Killinger, an architect by profession, ensured solid financial stewardship of the zone, and provided guidance to multiple zone chairs and boards through his years of service. Over his many years of service Killinger has displayed a gentle manner, ethical governance, boundless generosity (he personally carried the zone in lean times) and thorough professionalism. Killinger selflessly agreed to continue in his role to assist the new zone leadership make a full transition and is now retiring from all zone duties.
Bryan Weaver Master of the Year Award: Kathy "Gubba" Sheehy 2010 was a big year for Gubba Sheehy. The 2000 Olympic Silver Medalist was inducted into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame and in the same weekend helped guide the OMBAC Masters Club in a variety of age groups at the USA Water Polo Masters Nationals. Sheehy won a Gold Medal in the 20+ division, and a Silver Medal in the 30+ and 40+ age divisions. A coach for the OMBAC club as well as La Costa Canyon in the San Diego area Sheehy also coaches in ODP and competed in the Top 40 event this past fall.
Ratkovic/Burke Zone Service Award: Brad Peercy, Mountain Zone - Brad Peercy is the 2011 Ratkovic/Burke Zone chair of the year. Peercy, who was the first Zone Chair when the Mountain Zone was formed in 2003 continues in this role while maintaining his positions as head coach for Kearns Water Polo Club, Kearns High School, and Aquatics Manager at Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center in Kearns UT. Peercy presides over the Mountain Zone which was the fastest growing zone in the US last year and has participation in all USAWP programs including Splashball, some of the largest US Leagues programs, as well as Masters clubs and tournaments.
Masters Club of the Year: California Old Boys The California Old Boys are being recognized for the first ever Masters Club of the Year in 2010 largely for their pioneering of older athlete play through the years. They were among the first to play in older age divisions with multiple teams as well as to play abroad in several FINA World Championships. They have attracted players from all over to compete in USA Water Polo Masters Nationals and continue to provide players for other teams to continue competition. While not as highly decorated as other clubs, they epitomize the Masters spirit and continue to pioneer the age barriers for Masters play.
USA Water Polo Chairman's Cup: SoCal Water Polo 2010 was another outstanding year for SoCal water polo that saw impressive performance across all age groups and genders. The highlights of the year included the girls squad taking home Gold at the 14U Champions Cup while the 18U boys grabbed Gold at the S & R Sport Junior Olympics. Not to be overlooked the 14U boys and 14U girls locked down Silver at Junior Olympics while the 12U boys grabbed Bronze. At the Men's and Women's 20U Championships SoCal took home Silver to cap an outstanding summer of competition.
Background On Award Namesakes:
Monte Nitzkowski is synonymous with men's water polo in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s serving as Head Coach of Men's Olympic Team in 1972, 1980, and 1984, leading Team USA to a bronze medal in 1972 and a silver medal in 1984. Nitzkowski also served as an Assistant Coach with the 1968 and 2000 Men's Olympic Team. Sandy Nitta is a pioneer for women's water polo, an Olympic swimmer as a teenager; Nitta segued to water polo and held the post as Head Coach of the Women's National Team during large parts of the 80s and 90s, leading Team USA to bronze medals at the 1986 and 1991 World Championships. She was also instrumental in the creation of Commerce Aquatics, a groundbreaking program.
Bill Barnett, an outstanding high school coach at Newport Harbor High School, with 10 CIF boys championships and four girls championships, initiated and coached the first USA Men's Junior National Team, then picked up where Nitzkowski left off in the 1980s, guiding the Men's program to a silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games and a gold medal at the 1991 World Cup. Meanwhile "Doc" Hunkler, three-times named National Collegiate Coach of the Year, was a visionary for women's water polo who fought to have a true national women's collegiate championship and helped guide the programs at Slippery Rock University to unprecedented heights spanning three decades, including ten top-three finishes and a national women's collegiate championship in 1995. Hunkler also holds the distinction as the only coach to win both a Men's and Women's Olympic Festival Gold Medal
Few have groomed more men for Olympic competition than Ted Newland. Entering the coaching scene in the late 1960s Newland turned the University of California-Irvine into a tenacious competitor, earning three NCAA titles as he coached well into the new millennium. Called by some the "godfather" of high school water polo in Northern California, Brent Bohlender's Women's Junior National Teams captured two bronze medals from 1984 to 1999; Bohlender recently amassed his 700th career victory on the scholastic circuit keeping Johansen High School as a perennial contender. Lastly on the club circuit, Bohlender's Modesto-Stanislaus club won 18 National Championships over 34 years.
Bernard, Hermstad, and Chaney all took US officiating to unparalleled heights during their time in the whites. As a past president of USA Water Polo, Bernard also whistled the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games and was the preeminent collegiate official for many years. Hermstad was a fixture at several Olympic Games whistling the 1972, 1976, 1984, and 1988 Olympic Games in addition to four World Championships and has worked tirelessly on behalf of water polo officials, helping to form the USA Water Polo National Referee Committee. Last but not least, Chaney capped an outstanding officiating career serving as the United States referee at the most recent Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 as well as 2004 in Athens.
Current Masters Committee Chair Bryan Weaver works tirelessly for more playing opportunities while also piloting the boy's team at Brentwood High School. Long-time manager of the Men's National Team and holder of various offices since the incorporation of USA Water Polo, Barbara Kalbus continues to give back to the sport today, providing critical history for the USA Water Polo program and overseeing the official scoring table at various water polo competitions.
Andy Burke and George Ratkovic fittingly serve as the namesake for the Zone Service Award; few have represented regional water polo with more dedication and compassion. Ratkovic, stalwart of Southern California and longtime Southern Pacific Zone Chair oversaw unprecedented growth in his zone; Burke, a beacon of Northern California's famed Olympic Club, has remained active in USA Water Polo Premier League and the National Tryout Series; he also served as the Team Manager at the 1964 Olympic Games.
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Courtesy of: USA Water Polo