Stanford Sweep! Fischer, Hallock Win Cutinos as America’s Best Polo Players

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Alex Wolf, Ben Hallock, Johnny Hooper and Anna Cutino, Pete Cutino's daughter, at The Olympic Club. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

For the 2019 Pete Cutino Awards presentation—given annually to the country’s top male and female collegiate water polo athletes—there was a pronounced change; the event was broadcast live for the first time. Saturday night at The Olympic Club in downtown San Francisco, Greg Mescall, USA Water Polo Director of Communications and Kami Craig, three-time Olympian and two-time Cutino awardee (2009, 2010) created a festive atmosphere around American polo’s most prestigious award.

[Live Stream of 2019 Cutino Awards presented by USAWP]

The outcome was a Stanford sweep, as sophomore Ben Hallock, who led the Cardinal to the 2018 NCAA men’s final, and junior Mackenzie Fischer, whose Stanford team won the 2019 NCAA women’s title, were honored as the nation’s top polo players. It’s the third time a pair of Cardinal teammates have won Cutinos in the same year, and marked the 13th time in the 20 years of the award that a player from Stanford has been named the nation’s best.

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Ben Hallock cradling his Cutino. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

In his acceptance speech, Hallock—a member of the U.S. Senior Men’s National Team that competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the 2018 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year—thanked his parents, Tom and Allison, and his sister Morgan, as well as his Stanford teammates. He made also cited Brian Flack, his head coach at Harvard Westlake High School.

Fischer, who is in Budapest preparing with the U.S. Senior Women’s National Team for an upcoming FINA World League Super Final, said in a video clip that she was “honored” to be include with previous Cutino award winners and nominees.

Acknowledging Hauschild and Longan, who are also in Hungary with Team USA, Fischer added that “the opportunities, friends and lessons the sport of water polo have provided me are endless,” before thanking her Stanford coaches, including Head Coach John Tanner, and her parents Erich and Leslie, as well as sister Aria, a teammate on both the Stanford and Team USA squads and who like her sister won gold in the 2016 Games.

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UCSD Head Coach Denny Harper. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

In his keynote speech to the assembled coaches, athletes and invited members of the water polo community, Denny Harper, long-time UC San Diego head men’s coach, regaled the audience with tales of Cutino. The late, great Cal Berkeley coach dominated the sport for almost three decades (1963-1988), winning a then-record eight NCAA men’s championships. In a classic send up of the legendary coach, Harper relayed an incident in 1983, when a brief grill fire in Steve Heaston’s backyard brought out a humorous side of Cutino, who was known to be physically imposing presence.

Craig and Mescall, seated in The Olympic Club’s elegant dining room, chatted with a number of high-profile guests, including Chris Ramsey, USA Water Polo Executive Director, KK Clark, a member of the U.S. women’s squad that captured gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and Kirk Everist, current Cal Head Men’s Coach. A former national player of the year who played four years under Cutino, including 1988, when Kirk led the Golden Bears to a 33-3 record, the most in program history, and the final NCAA title of the Cutino era.

Hallock beat out his current teammates on the U.S. men’s team; Johnny Hooper, who finished his illustrious Golden Bear career with 245 goals, second on the Cal all-time list, and Alex Wolf, the superb UCLA goalie who in three years has complied 449 saves and helped the Bruins to the 2017 NCAA title.

[On The Deck with Cal Berkeley’s Johnny Hooper]

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Kami Craig and Greg Mescall. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

This was Fischer’s second straight nomination for a Cutino; last year she lost out to Amanda Longan. The USC senior goalie was nominated again this year, as was Paige Hauschild, who in her sophomore season registered 49 goals and now has 117 goals in her Trojan career.

[On The Record with Pac-12 Network’s Chris Dorst]

Emcee Chris Dorst, who has been involved with the Cutino Awards presentation every year since the award was instituted in 1999, took a moment to recognize the passing of a quartet of great American coaches: Bill Barnett, Bob Horn, Richard “Doc” Hunkler and Ted Newland.

Established by The Olympic Club, the Cutino Award is given annually to the top men’s and women’s NCAA Division I water polo players as voted on by coaches from across the country.

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