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First-year Downers Grove South water polo club hopes to keep growing

DOWNERS GROVE – Downers Grove South's water polo club is in its first year of existence, and the ultimate goal for the group is to be recognized as an official school part.

There's one hurdle to reaching that goal.

"Nobody in the community knows that we even exist," James Rowden said.

Rowden and senior classmates Carlos Hunt and Luke Josey helped start the club and have done what they can to generate interest in the team.

"We're trying to get people to come come out and see the team," Rowden said. "We've been trying to get the word out by wearing shirts and talking to other students about it."

Currently, Hunt, Josey and Rowden are joined by fellow seniors Paul Daly, Mike Maloney, Ethan Riemer and Jason Ryan. South's girls club has seniors Alexis Conklin, Ali Ghazaleh, Emily Pikul, Patrycia Puszkarski, Megan Vacek, Jane Woywod and Rachel Wydra.

According to Hunt, in order to become an official school sport the team must first operate as a club before seeking out approval from the school board in three or four years.

"The only big problem is we have only [seven] seniors," Hunt said of the boys' side of the club. "So we're trying to get underclassmen to come out."

Four juniors, three sophomores and a freshman comprise the rest of the boys club. The game is played with six swimmers and a goalie, so the club will be looking to add a few more new players next season in order to keep numbers up and keep the program growing.

"I hope it's a full IHSA [Illinois High School Association] sport competing in the playoffs against other schools," Josey said of his goals for the club in the future. "I hope the sophomores and juniors can keep it going."

"I want to come back and watch them play and possibly see some of the freshmen I know playing," said Hunt, a swimmer at South who had never played water polo until joining the club.

Frank Kuchta, who started the water polo programs at Hinsdale South during his time there, is currently overseeing Downers Grove South's club. Having someone who has already gotten a program off the ground is a good first step toward becoming a school sport.

As Hunt and his fellow seniors come closer to passing the torch to the club's younger players, there's one thing he wants potential players to know.

"The first time I played it I thought it was an amazing sport. I think if more people played it they would enjoy it," Hunt said. "You don't even have to be a good swimmer to be good at it."

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