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Local water polo athletes to compete in USA Zone Championships
water polo athletes
Lars Wenstrand (left) and J.T. Weimer will participate in the USA Water Polo Regional Zone Championships March 17-19.

Turlock High sophomore J.T. Weimer and freshman Lars Wenstrand each attended Olympic Development Program camps in December and January with more than 100 other athletes from the Central California zone of USA Water Polo.

Now, the duo is headed to San Antonio, Texas, where they’ll take part in Regional Zone Championships March 17-19.

The ODP serves as the primary feeder system for the USA Water Polo age-group national teams each year. The foundation of ODP is a systematic, long-term approach to athlete development through a year-round training program. 

“Basically, ODP is to get the kids in the pipeline,” said Turlock High water polo coach Nic Serratos. “And, hopefully, to one day make the national team.”

The Central California zone extends from Sacramento to Bakersfield and includes the San Luis Obispo region.

From these original camps, 42 athletes were invited to attend the Northern California evaluations last month — a day-long combined training camp with the Pacific Zone athletes who were selected (the Pacific Zone, covering the Bay Area, is the other NorCal zone).

From the NorCal evaluation day, both the Central and Pacific zones selected athletes for the national championships in San Antonio.

The Central California team selected 28 players, to be divided into A and B squads. All told, only four of the total 28 players are centers, and two of them are from Turlock High School.

“I was pretty confident and felt I’d at least be on the B team,” said Weimer, who helped the Bulldogs to a 25-5 record in 2022 and a Central California Athletic League title. “I feel like I could’ve been a lot better. On the combine day, I played really badly. My outside shooting was terrible. Hopefully, I can showcase this next weekend that I deserve a spot on the A team."

The national championship tournament will be played with teams from all the zones across the U.S. 

The national championship tourney will continue to filter athletes, where roughly 50 players will be selected to participate in the National Team Selection Camp next month in Orange County. The NTSC is where this year’s age-group national teams — Development (14-under), Cadet (16-under), Youth (18-under) — will be selected.

“I’m playing as a 15-year-old on a team made up of 16- and 15-year-olds,” said Wenstrand. “So, I’m on the younger end of it. There’s going to be a national team — the best 14 in the country — and that’s my goal. I don’t know if I’ll get there this year, but it’s great to be on the Central California team this year. It’s a first step in making that national team.”

National age-group teams will then participate in international competition during the summer.

“I know they both have aspirations to play beyond high school,” said Serratos. “This is kind of the first step toward taking their game to the next level.”