by Coach Benner Cummings
This past summer saw the highly successful Triton Water Polo Team invited to Hungary for a series of tournament games against the Eger City Club Team. There was added prestige here, as the club teams of Eger have had their best talent selected for the Hungarian National Team since the early 1920s when their first outdoor 50-meter pool was built, helping to improve upon their two most popular sports, swimming and water polo.
Without Eger’s water polo players and swimmers, the history of these Hungarian sports would have been unimaginable. This includes this summer’s powerful gold medal water polo team, plus a 15-year-old silver medallist in the Olympic 200-meter breaststroke and a 17-year-old winning three additional Olympic swim medals for the Hungarian swim team.
Some 23 members of San Clemente High boys’ and girls’ water polo teams were surprised to find this highly loved sport located in a colorful city with many baroque style buildings and beautiful old churches just 90 miles east of its ancient capital, Budapest. Students, parents and coaches alike were also stunned to learn that Eger, a city about the size of San Clemente but with a much smaller financial base, not only has century-old buildings, but also three full-sized 50-meter Olympic pools. All in full use daily for public recreational swimming, water polo, competitive swimming and public swimming lessons. With an additional new 50-meter indoor swimming and water polo complex, plus a 25-meter indoor lap swim pool to complement the two outdoor 50-meter pools.
Our coaches watched as youngsters were bused in daily for all types of swimming instruction. Swimming to the Hungarians is like reading and math – a lifetime necessity. The city of Eger makes exceptional use of its three 50-meter pools by dividing each pool into three areas where competitive lap swimmers, water polo players, children and adults learn to swim. Programs are conducted throughout the day, and the city does not put a price limit on its youth or adults regarding water safety. This focus on swimming and water polo pay off in each Olympic year with many Olympic medals for Hungary and its population of some 12 million people.
Coach Parker’s San Clemente team practiced three times a day, morning, afternoon and at 5 o’clock rugged water polo matches. When not swimming and practicing, the young men and women toured the city’s historical sites, old castles, baroque churches, and a magnificent national sports gallery where pictures of past great Hungarian Olympic medalists, trophies and flags were all on display.
As for the water polo games themselves, they were lessons in team precision on both teams’ parts. There were warm-up drills and hard-pressed games that were sure to help both their own city’s club team as well as our Triton boys and girls, who seemed to gain in pride and confidence as each daily tournament proceeded. Then, later, after the hard, taxing drills, the youth from both clubs, girls and boys alike, gathered for an exchange of tee shirts as tokens of remembrance. They also shared a warm, filling dinner of old-fashioned Hungarian goulash.
I’m sure the Triton water polo team invasion of the summer of 2004 will leave Eger with fond memories of a happy, spirited group of Yanks from San Clemente, California. Those youngsters who played so well and learned so much were: Jeff Smith, Conors Powers, Brett Garrett, David Moss, Brady Haug, Kyle Smith, Daniel Welch, Charles Yamamoto, Brett Wolf, Cody Ellis, Matt Tunnell, Greg Mundia, Ryan Buckley, Kyle White, Aaron Rivadeneyra, Scott Yeilding and young Tucker Arth, plus twelve great gals from San Clemente and Capo Valley High. Varsity coach Marc Parker, assistant coaches Don Laster, Pat Higgens and Donovan Russell, accompanied them.