Even in a highly physical sport likernwater polo, it’s not uncommon for players to react “with gusto,” to what theyrnperceive to be unnecessary, let’s say, “physicality,” on the part of theirrnopponents.

Or, as Reagan Whitney, the leader ofrnMarymount High School’s Division 7 CIF-Southern Section champions, says with arnlaugh, “Yeah, we get into fights.”

But when the game ends, a remarkablernthing happens. “We get out of the pool, we shake hands, we smile, we hug, andrnwe’re friends again,” says Whitney. “And that’s the thing about water polo — yournget to meet these amazing people.”

Certainly, Whitney herself is anrnamazing presence in the pool, as denoted by her selection as Division 7 Playerrnof the Year (in her sophomore season, no less). In Marymount’s 8-2 Division 7rntitle game win over Los Amigos, Whitney scored tallied four goals and twornsteals, emblematic of her stellar season.

But the Los Angeles native and graduaternof St. Paul the Apostle School in Westwood is quick to spread the credit aroundrnfor the Sailors’ first-ever CIF water polo championship.

“It was an amazing experience,” shernsays with enthusiasm. “We had two great new coaches [Kate Bradley and Nick Amstutz]rnwho encouraged and worked us to where we needed to be. The title was our mainrngoal, and we enjoyed the whole process.”

Marymount’s path to the title was pavedrnby its rugged Mission League season, which saw league champion Harvard-Westlakernreach the Division 3 finals, and second-place finisher Notre Dame of ShermanrnOaks win the D-5 title.

“Mission League was a lot harder,” saysrnWhitney, recalling third-place Marymount’s tough battles with both schools.rn“Those are two tough teams and it really speaks to the strength of our league.”

The fact that Notre Dame freshman EmilyrnSuong was the D-5 Player of the Year delighted Whitney. “Emily and I havernplayed club water polo together for several years,” says Whitney, “and I’mrnreally proud of her.”

From the pitch to the pool

The middle child in her family (betweenrnyounger and older brothers), Whitney has played competitive sports her wholernlife, starting with soccer. “I played goalie and thought I’d become arnprofessional because enjoyed it so much,” she says. “But five years ago, Irnstarted playing water polo, and I loved it a lot more, because of the people.rnAquatics people are more mellowed out.”

Mellow? “The physicality of water polorndrew me in,” she says with a smile. “I love the physicality. Things in yourrnlife out of water can get tough sometimes, so in the water you can let it allrnout. And water polo can be rough, but once you get out you’re all friends.”

Having become “hooked on water polo,”rnWhitney stopped playing soccer at age 12 and started playing club water polo,rnoften playing on boys’ teams because of the lack of girls her age. “When thernboys wouldn’t let me play with them, I played with older girls,” says Whitney,rnwho currently participates in the Stars and Stripes Aquatics Academy (formerlyrnthe Bruin Water Polo Club), and is among the country’s top young water polornplayers.

For high school, she chose Marymount,rnprimarily for its faith component. “I like the Gospel values they teach,” shernsays. “I enjoy learning about the Bible, and I like how compassion is taught inrnthe classroom.”

In addition to water polo, Whitney is arnstrong performer for Marymount’s swim team (“It’s good post-season exercise.”)rnand spends a good deal of her free periods working out in the water. Out of thernpool, her favorite subject is history, and she participates in Marymount’srnScrub Club for those interested in the medical field.

“I’m interested in a pre-med programrnwhen I go to college,” she says, noting that she’s still working on herrntime-management skills. “History was tough, but once I learned how to balancernstudies and sports, I enjoyed the classes a lot more. Right now, we’re studyingrnWorld War II, and that’s always piqued my interest.”

Not that she draws any parallelsrnbetween WWII and those skirmishes in the pool. But it might not hurt those withrnthe power to make war to take a few lessons from those in the water, likernReagan Whitney, who — even in the heat of battle — understand that life goes onrnoutside the field of combat.

“We’rerntaught to love another,” she says, echoing a Gospel-based value to be employedrn“with gusto” by everyone.