Cameron Wright looks like an athlete.
With his broad frame, you might mistake him for a basketball player. With his broad shoulders, you might mistake him for a safety or a defensive back. But it is his bleach-blond hair that gives him away, revealing how much time he has spent in the pool.
And all of that time in the pool has paid off in a selection to a U.S. National Water Polo Cadet Squad, which will travel to play in Serbia from Aug. 9 through 18.
Wright, who will be a sophomore at Davis High in the fall and has already proven himself as a standout water polo player and swimmer, is one of two Davis Water Polo Club athletes invited to play on U.S. national teams. The other, recent Lodi High graduate Nic Carniglia, recently got to wear a U.S. Senior cap in an exhibition at Schaal Aquatics Center and will continue to play for his country on the men’s Youth Team.
Late last month, Wright earned his spot during a tryout camp at Costa Mesa High. He says he found out on the last day of that event — June 26 — that he had made the Cadet Team.
“I kind of already knew that I was going to be on the team because in the last scrimmage, the group of 99s (players born that year) were scrimmaging the groups of 97s and 98s. I was on the group of 99s and that was exactly the amount of people who were selected,” Wright said. “I was really excited when I saw that because I’m really excited to go.”
For Wright, it was another case of hard work paying off as the training camp practices were grueling.
“A water polo practice with your club team feels so much different from a water polo practice where you’re being evaluated and trying to get selected,” Wright explained. “Everything you do, you’re trying to do it the best you can because you think, ‘Maybe there’s a coach watching; I want to impress them.’ So the things you’re doing physically are the same, but you feel so much more tired afterwards.”
But it was all worth it as Wright now prepares to head to Serbia in just over a month. Recently a ninth-grader at Harper Junior High, this will be Wright’s first time leaving the country. He says when he goes to Serbia, he wants to be able to make friends with the people and learn the culture, as well as represent his country by playing his best:
“I want to meet the people there and see what their culture is like because the farthest I’ve ever been away from home is (Washington, D.C.) I want to experience different stuff.
Wright added: “It’s good to play against players who are better than you because it elevates your game, and you play to that level. So playing against the teams like Serbia and Croatia, they’re going to be really good, and I’m going to play to that level and hopefully that will prepare me for high school season.”
If the experience helps him elevate his game, prep opponents had better watch out. In helping the Blue Devils capture their second consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section championship last fall, Wright was third on the squad with 47 goals and earned an SJS honorable mention.
He also had success in the pool last spring, getting another section title as a member of the DHS boys swim team.
But the aquatic success comes as little surprise as Wright grown up around the pool. Dad Jamey Wright is the UC Davis women’s water polo coach — and the program director and coaching coordinator at the DWPC — and siblings Michael and Hailey are each former Devil standouts who now play for the Aggie teams. Their uncle Doug is the DHS girls coach.
“I probably started playing because I would always come to the pool with my dad because he was coaching my sister or my brother. That’s sort of how I got started,” Cameron Wright said. “I’ll have a practice and most people go home and their parents don’t know that much about water polo, but I’ll go home and I’ll talk to my dad about it and it think it helps; it pushes me forward.”
When he gets back from Serbia, Wright’s attention will shift to his sophomore season with the Blue Devils, where he will be on a talented squad that also features senior stars like Jeff Stark, Conrad McCarthy and Brad Nicholson. It’s a program that has churned out recent standouts Connor Stapleton, now playing at Stanford, and Garrett Fisk, who will suit up for the Air Force Academy starting in the fall.
The DHS team is a perfect environment for Wright because he loves winning.
“We’re trying to win sections,” Wright explained. “Jesuit’s probably the favorite right now because they didn’t graduate very many people. We know if we play really well as a team and swim hard, that we can definitely go all the way.”
And Wright wants to continue to play winning water polo when he gets to college, but he isn’t sure where just yet. He does know that sports won’t be the only thing he looks for when he makes his choice:
“I plan on playing water polo in college. My whole family has gone to UC Davis, but I don’t know if I’m going to go there. I’m not going to make my decision purely based off water polo; I’m going to try and find what I’m interested in academically in the next three years of high school.”
— Reach Thomas Oide at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterThomas