Take Five: NHHS Principal Sean Boulton and CDM Principal Jake Haley square off for Second Annual Battle in the Bay

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Even though tomorrow’s (Wednesday, May 22) water polo competition is only the second Battle in the Bay, the Sailors/Sea Kings rivalry has already been revving up between Sean Boulton, principal of Newport Harbor High School (NHHS) and Jake Haley, principal of Corona del Mar High School (CDM).

“I believe the rivalry has started ever since CDM became a school,” said Ross Sinclair, head coach NHHS Aquatics, who came up with the concept for Battle in the Bay, and got it started with the help of Laird Hayes and a few others. (Game times tomorrow at Marina Park are girls at 3:30 p.m.; boys at 4:30 p.m.)

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Courtesy of Sean Boulton

NHHS Boys Water Polo Open Division 2022 CIF Champions, Principal Sean Boulton (front left) and Ross Sinclair, head coach Aquatics (second from right)

“Water polo is an amazing sport and one that is embedded in this community. Both CDM and Newport are traditionally and historically the top programs in the country,” Sinclair said. “I think it’s great to tie-in our great schools, showcase high level water polo and play at an amazing facility down at Marina Park. Kids in this community grow up doing Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards and then dream of playing in a battle of the bay water polo game for either Newport Harbor or CDM, so it’s just another way to promote school, sport and community.”

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Courtesy of NMUSD

Jake Haley, principal of Corona del Mar High School

Where did the idea originate? “I played water polo after college down in Australia for five seasons and one of the clubs plays their game in the bay at this facility called Dawn Fraser Baths,” Sinclair said. “It was very cool to see the community come down and watch. I used to set up inflatable cages down at China Cove during the summer and once Marina Park was built, I just felt it was the best spot to showcase water polo to our community. Last year we had a great turnout and I expect to see a much bigger crowd this year.”

As the countdown begins, Stu News caught up with Boulton and Haley to get their takes on tomorrow’s competition.

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Courtesy of Sean Boulton

NHHS Girls Water Polo 2022 CIF Champions

Q. This is a “dual” Take Five, though I suspect there is an aspect of “a duel” involved as well. The Newport-CdM water polo rivalry is unique, could you describe it?

Jake Haley: Yes, this is a very historical rivalry between two of the top programs in the country that has deep community roots and a long history of friendship through sport. The water polo community is very small, and athletes grow up sharing experiences in Newport Beach.

Sean Boulton: The Newport-CdM water polo rivalry is a storied and intense competition that has evolved over many years, becoming one of the most unique and special rivalries in high school sports. There are two high schools in one city that are split by the bay! Both schools have a rich tradition of excellence in water polo, and their matches are often seen as a clash of titans, drawing significant attention from the local community and beyond.

The Newport-CdM water polo rivalry is a cherished tradition marked by its historical roots, community involvement, high stakes, respect and unforgettable moments. It exemplifies the spirit of high school sports, where passion, pride and performance come together to create something truly special.

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Courtesy of Instagram

CDM High School Boys Water Polo Team, coached by Lucas Reynolds

Q. What should your opponent – Sean Boulton – be afraid of in facing your teams in the competition?

JH: Our teams are under the direction of new coaching. Our girls’ team is led by coach Marc Hunt who was able to take us to the CIF Division 1 Championship and secure the victory. Our boys’ team is under the leadership of Lucas Reynolds, a product of CdM Polo and a UCLA Bruin. Both coaches have high standards for conditioning, level of play and commitment.

Q. What should your opponent – Jake Haley – be afraid of in facing your teams in the competition?

SB: Despite the fierce competition, there is a mutual respect between the teams and their supporters. The rivalry is characterized by sportsmanship and camaraderie, with players often knowing each other from club teams or other competitions. This blend of rivalry and respect enhances the unique nature of their encounters. The only thing I fear about Jake is his terrible golf game – it is hard to be around for 18 holes.

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Courtesy of cdmwaterpolo,com

CDM Girls Water Polo 2024 CIF Champions, coached by Marc Hunt

Q. Are your teams doing anything special to prepare for this competition?

JH: Our teams continue to train in the morning and afternoon; we will be ready to play.

SB: The rivalry serves as a proving ground for athletes, and I think they have a little extra for this game given the intensity of the battle of the bay in the bay!

Q. What challenges do your teams face?

JH: Like all sports, we are phasing into a new club season as our class of 2024 polo players get ready to graduate. The challenges are just the natural constraints of new teammates, positions and continuity.

SB: This blend of rivalry and respect enhances the unique nature of their encounters, and they may have a hard time keeping focused given the amount of people that come out for the game.

Q. Since this event promotes the sport and community, do you see it evolving into something bigger?

JH: I definitely see this event continuing to grow and help to bring the community together. I can’t forecast what it becomes, but I believe in the value of having the battle in the bay. I think it’s great for water polo and both schools.

SB: Don’t know how it can? The rivalry and game exemplify the spirit of high school sports, where passion, pride and performance come together to create something truly special.

As for the future of Battle in the Bay, Sinclair said, “I think this could grow into something bigger such as a tournament or maybe next year we bring in the volleyball programs from Newport Harbor and CDM and play a beach volleyball battle of the bay then head over to Marina Park and watch the water polo game.”


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