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Virgen: Plenty of local flavor at Olympics

July 21, 2012|By Steve Virgen

It seemed inevitable their paths would cross in a meaningful way.

After all Misty May-Treanor and April Ross went to the same high school, Newport Harbor, though they graduated at different times. They grew up in the same town, played at the same gyms and learned the sand game on the same beaches.

Of course they have a connection.

Five years ago, so the story goes, Ross was about to form a team with Jennifer Kessy. The new duo played in a secluded practice match against the best: Misty and her partner Kerri Walsh. It was a tryout of sorts to see if they could hang with the best.

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"We did pretty well against Misty and Kerri so [Jennifer] agreed to play with me in our first tournament," Ross said. "We got to the finals of that tournament, which is crazy because I spent the whole year before that in the qualifier."

Ross and Kessy were supposed to go back to their usual respective partners after the runner-up finish, but they both sensed something special. So the USC alums stayed together.

Now, who knows? The paths of the famous Newport Harbor High stars could cross again in London.

May-Treanor is seeking her third straight gold medal and wants to close out her Olympic career in storybook fashion. Ross definitely wants a medal in her first Olympics. Ross and Kessy have been training to win the gold in a wide-open women's beach volleyball race.

May-Treanor and Ross are among a dozen Team USA athletes with ties to the Newport-Mesa area or UC Irvine, heading to the London Olympics, which begin Friday.

Ross has watched an impressive career unfold for May-Treanor, a legend in beach volleyball.

Ross said she is motivated by May-Treanor's success, but not so much because they attended the same school and played for the same coach, Dan Glenn.

"I just think Kerri and Misty's success over the years as a beach volleyball team has driven everyone else in the United States, in the world," Ross said. "They set the bar so high. You win a tournament that's really cool. But it's not good enough because Misty and Kerri won like 90 in a row. Misty is inspiring for that reason. You can't just be OK. If you want to be recognized in the United States you have to be excellent."

Ross is headed to London to be excellent. She isn't the only one from Newport Harbor at the Olympics.

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