One West Valley Mustang makes a splash in water polo, while another pinned down his opposition on the wrestling mat
■ By Corey Evan / Reporter
Even when the season doesn’t go your way, it’s nice to see the good that can come from it. Such holds true for the athletes at West Valley High School. Several of their teams struggled to gain traction against their competition this season, while others shone like the midday sun. Two examples of these standout Mustangs are seniors Kendra Whitmore and Joey Romo.
Whitmore hit the pool for the Mustang water polo team this winter, helped bring the Mustangs to not only a 16-6 season, but also the CIF semifinals for 2018, her coach, Robert Avila had to nominate her for our MVP Spotlight.
“Kendra was one of the hardest workers on the team; she was first team all league, first team all CIF, and team MVP,” said Avila. “Kendra was a leader for the team the entire season. As goalie, she was the backbone of our defense. She recorded over 200 saves this season.”
Whitmore says she got into water polo thanks to a friend. “It was actually really crazy; I’ve been swimming my whole life, but not competitively, I’ve just always loved the water. Just being in the water and just being silent and just feeling like you can do anything,” she explained. “My friend Serene—that I’m still friends with now—she shoved me in the water and brought me to our former coach, Will Hutchinson. He was the one who was telling me about water polo. I had no idea what water polo was before that…I had no idea it even existed!”
Coach Avila says her greatest moment in the pool came at the expense of the Hemet High School Bulldogs. “One of the most memorable moments of the season was our game vs. Hemet,” he began. “Kendra made six 5 meter blocks. She stopped so many of their free shots, the opposing coach decided to take the ball instead of shooting the free shot.”
After high school, Whitmore is headed to Riverside Community College and wants to become a dermatologist. She thanks her coaches and her team for helping her stay on top of the game both in the pool and in the classroom.
Joey Romo took to the mat for the West Valley wrestling team and was nominated here by wrestling coach Ed Mendivil.
“He’s a seriously outstanding kid; He’s a great captain and great leader,” Mendivil described. “He led the team all the time—and I mean, told-them-what-to-do kind of vocal. Sometimes he leads by actions, sometimes vocally. He went the farthest; hands down the best wrestler we had this year.”
Romo says he took to the mat because of family ties. “My older brother was wrestling, and then when he got home, he would show me some moves,” he said. “I liked it, so I ended up pursuing it.”
Coach Mendivil says he was most proud of when Joey made it to the state CIF in Bakersfield this past February. “That was a great moment,” said Mendivil.
Despite being eliminated on day one of this year’s Bakersfield meet, Romo says he still enjoyed his four years on the mat. “This school definitely helped me out and pushed me to go farther.”
Romo’s opponents better like flying if they think they’re going to take him on on the mat. He likes to throw, and use cradles. Perhaps it was he who knocked out that ceiling tile in the wrestling room…“Maybe,” Romo responded, jokingly.
After high school, Romo plans to start a wrestling club for kids, and maybe one day return to West Valley as a coach himself. “I hope he does come and help,” said Mendivil. “His cousin, who I coached for four years also, is helping me out this past year. There’s nothing like having a young guy come in, because he can wrestle with [students] as much as I ask him.”
From first splash to final throwdown, these two have given their fellow Mustangs and you, our loyal readers, something well worth cheering for. Congratulations Kendra and Joey!
Do you have a student athlete to nominate for our MVP Spotlight? If so, Corey Evan can be reached at 760-270-5625 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.