When 70 of the best young water polo players in the nation gather for a national training camp at Long Beach State University from May 24 to 28, Oakdale freshman Shelby Stender will be along for the ride.
Stender’s NorCal Olympic Development Program team (based in Davis) claimed a fifth place finish at the Regional Championships on Sunday. The action gave NorCal a last look at competition in the Central California Pacific Zone, and garnered Stender enough attention to gain selection among handpicked individuals to attend the national training camp for high school sophomores and younger.
Twenty of the 70 will make the final cut to see action on the Team USA roster.
“It’s really cool to move on and be a part of the top 70 players in the nation at my age,” Stender said on Sunday. “If I take a step back and think about it, it feels really good for my career.”
Stender made noise in the fall as a key member of the Oakdale High varsity girls water polo team that finished runner-ups in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. She nabbed second team All Valley Foothill Conference honors and was among Oakdale’s top three scorers.
The same talents led Stender to a position in the ODP program with her sister Savannah Stender (OHS senior), Jared Kahler (eighth grade team) and Emily Bennett (eighth).
Stender said all four of Oakdale’s ODP athletes were terrific motivation during the offseason competition, and credited her older sister for paving the path she has followed.
“I got this far because Savannah went this far before me and helped me so much,” Shelby said. “Maybe I don’t make it to the top-20, but I can always come back and try again next year.”