By Scott Osborn ’94
When watching her in action, Christina Hicks ’20 seems like she’s spent her entire life in the pool, but she actually didn’t touch a water polo ball before trying out for the intermediate team in seventh grade. “I was looking for a sport to do in the spring season, and water polo didn’t have any cuts back then,” she jokes.
Fueled by an outstanding work ethic, Hicks has since become not just a Punahou standout, but a nationally recognized water polo sensation. In August, she was selected to play for the U.S. National Team at the 2019 UANA Youth Pan American Championships in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago. Her summers are spent in California training with the Diablo Alliance Water Polo club. She’s also headed to play for Stanford University’s women’s team, which captured four of the last six NCAA championships, including the 2019 title.
Her ultimate goal: Making the U.S. women’s water polo team and competing at the 2024 Summer Olympics. “That would definitely be a dream come true,” she says. “It’s an amazing feeling when you hear the national anthem and know that you are representing your country.”
Meanwhile, at Punahou, Hicks has been a force. Last May, the Punahou girls water polo team won its 12th straight state championship. Hicks, who was 5 years old when Punahou’s streak began, scored 13 goals in the three-game tournament and was named the most outstanding player.
Water polo coach Ken Smith remembers Hicks when she first started playing. “She had a lot of challenges in terms of what she needed to do as a player,” he recalls. “Her throwing was subpar, and her swimming needed a lot of work.”
But she more than made up for her early struggles through tenacity, discipline and determination. “She will do anything to improve her game – not just physically, but mentally too,” Smith says. “She really embodies the idea of mind, body and spirit.”
He recalls Hicks as a freshman recording a team meeting so she could listen to it again at home. There also was the time the UCLA water polo team trained at Punahou. Without any prodding, Hicks watched the practices and took notes in her journal.
These efforts in and out of the pool have transformed her into an incredible offensive threat at the center position, as well as a solid student headed to one of the country’s top academic universities. “There is no secret to her success,” Smith says. “Coaches like to say that hard work makes dreams come true, and you can see this with Christina. She is the ideal example of a student athlete.”
Even with Hicks’ ambitions now turned to the national stage, she doesn’t take her time at Punahou for granted. “It’s great to be a part of this legacy,” she says. “We have the best coaching staff, and they give me the opportunities to achieve what I want to achieve.”