By John Philip Wyllie
The way Jessie Yim looks at it, her multicultural background is an advantage. Growing up in the U.S. with Mexican and Chinese heritage, she can claim three distinct cultures as her own.
“From the time I was six months old until I started kindergarten I spent my days with my (Mexican) grandma. She and my grandfather moved to the U.S. when they were adults. They spoke very little English. My mom used to say that if I hadn’t learned to speak Spanish that I wouldn’t have gotten fed. By the time I reached kindergarten I could speak Spanish pretty well. Living here in Southern California it really helps to know Spanish. People are really surprised when they hear someone with a (Chinese) last name like Yim speaking Spanish.” That’s not the only thing surprising about Yim. The Bonita Vista freshman has used her superior swimming skills to earn a spot on the Baron’s highly competitive eighth-ranked water polo team.
“We have two freshmen this season that have been playing varsity water polo for us,” explained Barons coach, Antonio Gallardo. “We are very fortunate that they are both year- round players with lots of experience. Jessie is a real good leader. She is president of the freshman class and she has a lot to contribute to the school and to our team. She has been playing mostly on defense for us. She’s done an excellent job of filling spaces at times when we have needed somebody.”
As a freshman, Yim is more of a utility player than a star. She looks up to senior team captains Berenice Jimenez and Sarah Glick.
“My best friend and I are the only two freshman on this team. Our captains have really embraced us and they have made us feel comfortable with the whole situation. We sometimes have our differences, but we are all pretty much a family at this point. Four of five of our starters are seniors, so there will be a lot more opportunity next year.”
Several of the games have gone into overtime and several others have been close, hard-fought matches. One mistake can be the difference between winning and losing. It can be a pressure-packed environment, especially for a freshman swimming with and against older, more experienced players. Yim takes it all in stride. Her experience swimming for the prestigious San Diego Shores Club no doubt helps.
“Our U-18 team won the nationals swimming against the best 16 to 18 year olds in the country. I played for their U-14 team. We haven’t had as much success, but we did qualify for the Speedo Cup in St. Louis and the national tryouts in New York. It has all been a good learning experience.”
College is of course several years away. And Yim realizes that Division I water polo scholarships are incredibly rare, but with a G.P.A. approaching 4.0, she may not need one.
I would love to go to a small East Coast school and play water polo. That way I might be able to get a water polo scholarship and go to a pretty good school.