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Sophie Gemelas, Madras High School class of 2015, finishes water polo career at Oregon.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - During Sophie Gemelas' junior year in college, she was named to the scholar-athlete team by the Collegiate Water Polo Association for finishing the 2017-18 year with superior honors.  Her senior year, Gemelas received Northwest Division first-team honors at the University of Oregon.
Sophie Gemelas, a former White Buffalo state champion water polo standout and 2015 MHS graduate, finished her water polo career at the University of Oregon.

Gemelas was part of the Madras water polo state championship team in 2015. Her junior year in college, she was named to the scholar-athlete team by the Collegiate Water Polo Association for finishing the 2017-18 year with superior honors. As a senior, Gemelas received Northwest Division first-team honors at the U of O.

Water polo is an extremely difficult sport physically, with participants treading water, while opponents pull, grab, and push them to get the ball. As one of the captains on her team, she had to show strength and leadership in the water.

"It is a game of strategy, set up like basketball; you have to have extreme endurance, where your recovery time is still treading water," Gemelas said. "Then you have someone hanging on you, fighting for the ball. It is kind of a combination of a lot of different sports. It is very rigorous."

"The position I play is the 2-meter defender, which means I defend the position that is 2 meters away from the goal line," she said. "You are trying to survive, but also trying to hit the ball away. On the other side, I play what would be the point position in basketball, which is initiating drives and plays, while shooting the ball from the outside. Water polo is a wild animal. You are always trying to survive, but is also the most fun sport I have ever played. If I had the choice I would have kept playing it forever."

In June, Gemelas graduated with a degree in journalism and cinema studies, but is chasing her master's at the Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a 3.7 GPA.

"I really think that I learned about good balance in high school," she said about managing athletics and academics. "I was always keeping busy, so that nose-to-the-grindstone, shoulder-to-the-wheel mentality translated to college. It was a different level at college though."

"It takes a lot of discipline, time, mental willpower," she said. "All those things you learn come from sports anyway, so they really benefit each other. If you are doing sports and studying, all you're doing it bettering yourself. Once you realize that all these things are good for you, then you just keep doing it."

During Gemelas' junior season, the Ducks made it to the Women's National Collegiate Club water polo tournament. The Ducks lost to the No. 1 ranked University California-Davis, who would later win the tournament.

The team moved into the consolation bracket, beating Texas A&M and Cornell. Gemelas and the Ducks faced heavily favored Penn State next. The Ducks were down 7-6 heading into the final quarter, when Penn State scored another goal with 4:42 left in the game.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Sophie Gemelas will pursue a career in filmmaking after earning her master's degree at Loyola Marymount University, where she will be attending this fall. The former White Buffalo state champion wrapped up her athletic career and now has one big goal left.
Oregon kept fighting and scored two goals, tying the game 8-8 with a little more than two minutes left to play. With the game tied, Gemelas scored a goal with 1:56 left, giving the Ducks a 9-8 lead. Gemelas' goal sparked the Ducks team, giving the team momentum to score two goals in the last minute and 30 seconds.

The Ducks ended the Women's National Collegiate Club water polo tournament in ninth place, with Gemelas having scored three goals during the tournament.

In her senior season, the Ducks had a new water polo coach. The team had a very young team and were neck and neck with the University of Washington. The Huskies were one of the Ducks' biggest competitors. Oregon lost to Washington in the regional finals and the Huskies moved on to the national tournament instead of the Ducks.

"It was a bit heartbreaking, but all in all, it was a good season," Gemelas said.

During the season, Gemelas and the Ducks played against Portland State. On the Vikings team, playing against Gemelas, was former teammate Aurora Gerhardt.

Gerhardt was a high school teammate with Gemelas and also helped the Buffalos win a state championship in 2015. That was Gerhardts' first year at Portland State and her water polo journey is just starting. The Ducks were able to beat the Vikings in their matchup.

"It was really weird to play against her because we have been teammates in high school," Gemelas said. "Aurora is definitely one of their standout players on Portland State. A couple of Madras fans came out to watch, like Lonnie and Angie Henderson. They have been supporters of Aurora and I for a long time and their son, Dustin (Henderson) played on the water polo team in high school. It was a fun little reunion, but just weird to play against Aurora and not with her."

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Sophie Gemelas defends an opponent during a match.The Madras Aquatic Center did not have a water polo team last fall (2018) because of trouble of finding a coach. The MACRD hired new aquatic manager Eric Bostard, 36, in mid-July. Bostard, a former water polo player, will also coach the Madras water polo team this fall.

Bostard is very excited to introduce the program back at Madras and in the future, starting a youth water polo program called splash ball, a very toned down, less aggressive form of water polo, teaching kids the basics of the game.

"I think it is great," Gemelas said about having water polo back in Madras. "It is always to get people interested in water polo just because it is not really a sport that you see on TV a whole lot. I love to hear the program is back. There is a lot of overlap with other sports and it really can strengthen you for those other sports. In the fall, you can play water polo, and in the winter, play basketball, and they are in the same vein of strategy."

"I think it will be good for the community to have a water polo team again," she said. "Kids can get introduced into a new sport and build up skills. Water polo is a really unique sport in the way where it is a team sport, but you really learn discipline, a lot like swimming. I am glad the kids will get to experience such a fun sport and I am glad they brought it back."

Gemelas will pursue a career in filmmaking after finishing up school at Loyola Marymount University. The former White Buffalo state champion wrapped up her athletic career and now has one big goal left.

"The best thing I have learned playing water polo was how to work on a team," said Gemelas. "That is kind of what I want to do with my profession because filmmaking is all about how well a team works together. I think for any kid debating to do a team sport, you are only going to improve."

Sign-ups for water polo and fall club swim team are currently open. The club swimming for ages 5-22 will run from Sept. 9-Dec. 4, with practices Monday to Thursday from 3:40-4:30 p.m. For prices and additional information, visit macrecdiscrict.com.


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