Newcomer is Dual Threat in the Pool for P-P
Will Howard | Nov. 21, 2014, 11:13 p.m.
Mark Hallman PO ’18 helped Pomona-Pitzer win not one, but two aquatic sporting events Nov. 1. In the morning, he played water polo against University of Redlands, whom the Hens beat 9-7. A few hours later, he assisted in setting a new Haldeman Pool record at the Pomona-Pitzer Relays.
Hallman has spent many hours of his life in a pool, participating in both water polo and swim and dive. He began swimming competitively when he was just six years old.
“My brothers used to fight a lot, so my parents put them in club swimming to try to tire them out," Hallman said. "I started really early because they did."
Fours years later, Hallman started playing water polo after his older brother picked it up as a sophomore in high school.
“[My brother] really loved it, and my dad said, ‘may as well get him started early,’” Hallman said.
However, water polo is generally not a popular sport where Hallman is from in the Chicago area. Luckily, Hallman lived close to one of the few schools with a more extensive water polo program.
“I was lucky because I lived next to Fenwick [High School], and they were kind of the big water polo hub of Illinois, so it was easier than it might have been otherwise to start playing,” Hallman said.
Now, eight years later at Pomona, he still loves the sport for its range of both physical and strategic challenges.
“It’s the team aspect," Hallman said. "There’s weird strategy; it’s very physical; there’s lots of cool ball coordination. It’s kind of got it all, and it’s hard."
Hallman also enjoys swimming, but for very different reasons.
“With swimming, you get out of it what you put in," Hallman said. "I don’t know if I would say it’s fun, but it’s very fulfilling because you definitely see results for hard work.”
At the collegiate level, Hallman has already seen competitive results. He has tallied 13 goals for the P-P men's water polo this season, the most of any first-year on the team. In the P-P relays, he swam alongside Andrew Savage PZ '15, Hugh Berryman PO '15 and Danny Villars PO '17 in the 400-freestyle relay to a first-place finish at 3:11:95. The team's time broke the facility's record in the race, set last year.
“It’s amazing to see him race,” fellow first-year swimmer Stefano Campana PO ’18 said. “I had assumed he was a distance swimmer because he’s tall and skinny, so I was surprised to see him tearing through the water during the 4x100 freestyle relay.”
P-P men's water polo head coach Alex Rodriguez also commented on Hallman's speed, adding that he brings a lot of intensity.
“He tries his butt off and always has a lot of energy and no fear of failure,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez acknowledged the limited experience Hallman had in Illinois, but he does not think that will hold the first-year back. Though Hallman may not have as much experience as some of his teammates and opponents, Rodriguez has high expectations for him.
“If he had gone to a California [high] school and been in a correct program, he probably would have had different options," Rodriguez said. "He probably played in 20 games per year, whereas here he would have played in over one hundred. But he’s put on some weight, he has good intensity and great potential.”
Joining a program with a supportive coach has helped Hallman adapt to playing at a higher level.
“Having someone like that who knows the game really well and is on you all the time to improve has been really good for me,” said Hallman.
Rodriguez has been particularly critical this year as he has depended on underclassmen, who compose most of the starting lineup.
“We’re a bit down this year," Rodriguez said. "In a typical year, I’d probably be a little bit less on him about developing, paying attention and catching on faster."
As a teammate, Hallman has quickly acclimated to being on a collegiate water polo team, according to his head coach.
“I think the guys really enjoy having him on the team. He’s always in on the joke," Rodriguez said. "The team seems to have really gravitated toward him."
However, even with his coach and teammates on his side, Hallman has seen that adjusting to the higher-level play is not always easy.
“When I was in high school I could throw up stupid shots or be lazy on defense," Hallman said. "Here, you have to be on your heels all the time. People take advantage if you make mistakes, so you just have to be more disciplined."
Throughout these transitions, older players have made a significant effort to support incoming players and set an example for goals in collegiate play.
“They all know what they’re doing, and they want to win," Hallman said. "They didn’t treat me like a freshman. They included me right away.”
Hallman and the rest of his water polo teammates are looking for a win against Chapman University this Friday, Nov. 21, in the first round of the SCIAC tournament. The Hens diving team will participate in the Inland Empire Diving Invitational at Haldeman Pool, and the swim team's next meet is Saturday, Dec. 6, at Whittier College.