When Meiling Kam went to her first water polo team practice, she had no idea what in store for her. The now-graduate of Kealakehe had never played the sport before, but it only took one practice for her to realize she may have found her calling.
“The first day of practice, it just felt so comfortable and fun,” Kam said. “And after that, when I really started learning the game more, I just fell in love with it and how it is. It’s like a lot of other sports, like soccer and basketball, but in the water, and I’ve always been an ocean person, growing up on the Big Island and everything.
“It felt so right for me. Going into each game, I was ready and I just fell in love with it.”
After a few years, Kam has completed her transition from water polo rookie to Division I signee. Kam recently signed a scholarship offer to play water polo at California Baptist. Kam will play alongside Kamehameha graduates Lahela Rosario and Aubrey Carter as a Lancer.
“I like the environment there and I felt more at home there,” Kam said of her decision to play at California Baptist. “And I like it because I prefer small classes and the education I’ll have there is really good, and their nursing program is also really good. Two other Big Island girls play there as well, that graduated two years ago and one year ago, and that made me feel more comfortable, too. I just liked Riverside too and the environment of everything.”
Kam had previously played water polo in Southern California for a club team, the San Diego Shores. She said her time on the West Coast helped her to become a better player, and ultimately helped land her the scholarship.
“I’m thankful for all my coaches, coach Chris (Chang), coach Lindsey, coach Maddie, coach Andy, and the San Diego Shores, family and friends for making me a stronger player,” Kam said. “I’m so blessed and excited for my new journey to become a Lancer and what the future holds.”
After her junior season with Kealakehe, Kam was named the team MVP and was an honorable mention on the All-BIIF water polo team. In March, during the one game the Waveriders were able to play for the 2020 season, Kam scored five against Keaau.
The rest of her senior season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had our last day on a Friday, and then our coach told us that night, when that whole week we were getting ready to play our rival, Kamehameha, and we’re all getting pumped and ready,” Kam said. “When I heard that our season was getting canceled, I broke down.”
Despite her senior year not going according to plan, Kam now has college to look forward to. To get ready for DI water polo during the stay-at-home order, Kam and her Waverider teammates have been swimming in Kailua Bay, to the Ironman World Championship buoy and back, and she has also been running in the morning and lifting weights.
“With my normal water polo schedule, I was running in the morning and had practice at night, now it’s more on your own and it’s a little bit harder I’d say,” Kam said. “But I have to keep pushing myself because I have to get prepared for next year.”
Having to face the cancellation of her senior season is just one last challenge Kam had to overcome on her journey to playing in college.
“I’m so proud of myself because I had to make so many sacrifices to get to this point, and I’m just excited to move on to a new team, and I love the coach already, and I’m excited to play other good schools,” Kam said. “It’s more interesting because all those girls who are playing water polo in DI, or DII or DIII, they’re all really good. We all worked hard to get to this point so to be able to play at the next level with them is so exciting.”