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Hitting fork in the wave

Newport Harbor High freshman Gilchrist may soon be forced to decide between future career in surfing or water polo.

October 31, 2006|By Dominic Perrone

Tough choices like the one Kaleigh Gilchrist is facing aren't supposed to come in the first year of high school.

There is water polo or surfing or both. Each comes with a sacrifice.

For now, Gilchrist, a freshman at Newport Harbor High, will compete in both. Gilchrist has played water polo for six years and has rare varsity potential for her age. In surfing, she has dominated high school competition and is on the U.S. national team.

This year, Gilchrist has worked out a deal with both sides. She misses two morning water polo workouts a week to attend surfing practice.

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It is a choice that will probably prevent Gilchrist from playing varsity water polo this year. Participating in both also means two physical education classes a semester.

With surfing comes a chance to get paid to travel the world and the free clothing and accessory perks that come with being sponsored.

With water polo, there is school and a chance for a college scholarship. School would have to be sacrificed in order to be a professional surfer.

Gilchrist understands the difficulty of being a star in both.

"Basically, I don't want to think about it," Gilchrist said.

The decision will come at the end of the high school surfing season in May when Gilchrist will compete in the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. nationals. If she does well, the choice will be surfing.

"My name will already be out there," Gilchrist said.

But Gilchrist has already begun sacrificing. One of Gilchrist's surfing sponsors offered to pay for her to go to Hawaii for a month to surf and watch surfing competitions. Water polo practice begins Nov. 11, so the decision was quick and easy, albeit painful.

"I was pretty bummed," Gilchrist said. "It would have been super fun to hang out with the O'Neill girls and surf. I told them right away because of polo."

In May, water polo will be sacrificed. As a member of the five-girl U.S.A. Surf Team Gilchrist will be in Portugal for two weeks, competing in the world championships.

She will only miss water polo conditioning so it was a painless choice.

Though she has only surfed for four years, Gilchrist has amassed an impressive resume. She won the 2005 OP Newport Classic girls' open division. Gilchrist has also won all three of her girls' shortboard competitions this year for the Sailors.

Scott Morlan, in his 12th year as coach of the Sailors, watched in April as Gilchrist, then of Ensign Intermediate, won the women's division in the Newport Classic.

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