Even in a highly physical sport like water polo, it’s not uncommon for players to react “with gusto,” to what they perceive to be unnecessary, let’s say, “physicality,” on the part of their opponents.

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

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

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

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

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

Marymount’s path to the title was paved by its rugged Mission League season, which saw league champion Harvard-Westlake reach the Division 3 finals, and second-place finisher Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks win the D-5 title.

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

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

From the pitch to the pool

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that she draws any parallels between WWII and those skirmishes in the pool. But it might not hurt those with the power to make war to take a few lessons from those in the water, like Reagan Whitney, who — even in the heat of battle — understand that life goes on outside the field of combat.

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