Aspen water polo teams with Mesa University for fun in the pool
The Aspen water polo “club” claims it doesn’t tire of seeing the same faces at its weekly get-together.
However, new competition isn’t something it shies away from, either.
“There are a couple clubs that play on the Front Range,” Lizzy Grater said. “If you are going to go west, you have to go either to Salt Lake or like down to the Albuquerque area to find clubs that play, with the exception of course of these guys in Grand Junction.”
Grater is the coach of the club — it’s really more of a class — that meets each Wednesday night at the Aspen Recreation Center. The challenge is often finding new bodies to compete against, especially considering how few and far between water polo clubs are in the center of the country.
So, last year the Aspen water polo players began going to Grand Junction to play against the more competitive Colorado Mesa University club team, coached by John Hildebrand. Last week, the Mesa team made its way to Aspen, a continuation of a growing relationship between the two groups.
“It’s just fun to have fresh blood in the water,” said Aspen’s Archie Maclean, who at 68 was the oldest player in the pool when Mesa came to town on Saturday. “I just love playing water polo. I swim masters to get better at playing water polo.”
Water polo is a bit of a cross between basketball and soccer, only its played in a pool. The objective is simply to get the ball into the other team’s net. It can be a competitive and physical sport, but the Aspen group likes to keep it lighthearted and friendly and available for all ages.
While Maclean was the oldest on Saturday, the youngest player was 13 and the make up included a mix of male and female participants.
“This is for all ages, all skill levels. Anyone can come play. It helps if you know how to swim. The rest we can teach you,” said Grater, who played water polo for the University of Virginia. “If we ever got to the point where we had a ton of people that really wanted to play, we’d definitely look for tournaments to go to. But we are really not at that level quite yet.”
The Aspen water polo club operates mostly in the winter months. On top of its 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday class, it tries to match up against Mesa roughly 3-4 times a winter. There is no cost to take part in the classes if you have an ARC membership.
Oh, and there are other perks outside of just the water polo.
“We always promote the water slide for after practice in case anyone is on the fence,” Grater said with a laugh. “I would say at this point my goals as the coach here are really just to maintain a consistent attendance base and kind of build the skill level.”
For more information, ask for Grater at the Aspen Recreation Center or stop by the 7 p.m. Wednesday class at the ARC pool.
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