Trip to China Put Simi Valley on the Map : Royal’s Dain Hurst Returned From Water Polo Tour With College Recruiters in Tow

Times Staff Writer

When major college water polo coaches look for recruits, they invariably look to the seaside schools that seem to turn out blond, blue-eyed brutes with assembly-line efficiency.

The recruiters rarely venture into Simi Valley, where top water polo prospects and icebergs appear with similar regularity.

Royal High’s Dain Hurst is an exception.

At 6-3, 190 pounds, the senior looks as if he could be the younger brother of U.S. Olympic water polo star Terry Schroeder.


He was already one of the best high school players in the Valley area when Royal Coach Steve Snyder selected him for an all-star team that toured the People’s Republic of China during the summer.

For Hurst, the trip proved to be the high road to success.

He was the dominant player in the Marmonte League this season and led Royal to its fifth consecutive league championship.

The biggest difference in Hurst this season has been in his mind, according to Snyder. Before the trip to China, Hurst had a problem. The pool he was playing in wasn’t big enough for his talent.

“The problem was that Dain was better than most of the people he was playing with and against,” Snyder said. “He’d get frustrated with himself and other members of the team when either one did not perform up to his expectations.”

It wasn’t Chinese philosophy that transformed Hurst from a player who yelled at his teammates into a respected team captain.

What Confucius said was nothing compared to what Snyder laid on Hurst.

“Coach Snyder and I had some long talks,” Hurst said. “He just told me to be patient with myself and with everyone else.”


Said Snyder: “Going on the China trip really helped Dain mature. He’s also a year older. Both of those factors contributed to his success this year.”

The physical factors that make Hurst a complete player are his speed and his strength. Hurst has won Marmonte League individual swim titles in the 50-, 100-, 200-yard events and also was a member of the league-champion 400-yard relay team.

“He’s only been playing water polo for four years, so he’s still new to the game,” Snyder said. “He’s going to have some good years depending on his perseverance. When he has an opportunity to play at a major college, he’ll fit in well. He won’t be as big a fish in as small a pond.”

This season, Hurst has used what he learned over the summer and subjected opponents to a new version of Chinese water torture.

“I learned a lot from the trip to China,” said Hurst, who has averaged more than five goals a game this season. “I saw some great picks and shots that I stored in my memory.”

One thing Hurst can’t forget is last season’s upset loss to Crespi in the first round of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs.


Royal opens this season’s playoffs today at 3 p.m. when the team plays host to Santa Barbara.

“We’re all pretty stoked for that game,” Hurst said.

Snyder is pretty happy himself. Next year, Hurst’s brother, Devin, and cousin, Todd--both with four years of junior program experience--will enroll as freshmen at Royal.