It helps to have friends in high places.
For the Harvard-Westlake High water polo team, it doesn't get much higher than Steve Smith, a NASA astronaut.
Last week in Texas, the team toured the Johnson Space Center courtesy of Smith, a friend of Harvard-Westlake Coach Rich Corso and captain of the water polo team at Stanford--which won the NCAA title in 1980.
"This trip was about more than just water polo," Corso said. "The tour was incredible. It was a very educational experience."
The Wolverines, 3-0 in the trip, beat Clear Lake. The Texas school is coached by Tom Landgraf, a former assistant to Corso on several national teams. Clear Lake has been invited to play in the Jim Toring tournament next year.
In its second year, the Toring tournament has doubled in size.
Harvard-Westlake started the tournament with an eight-team format designed to showcase the best teams in the San Fernando Valley and surrounding areas.
The field has expanded to 16 teams, including a few from Orange County, and the finals will be held Saturday at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach, site of the Southern Section finals.
Teams from the region include Harvard-Westlake, Burroughs, Agoura, Crescenta Valley, La Canada, Crespi and Glendale. Villa Park is the best of the teams from outside the region.
First-round play begins today.
The Toring tournament isn't the only one this weekend. Royal opens its season in the Riverside Poly tournament Friday.
La Canada is the top-ranked team in the Southern Section Division III preseason poll. Crescenta Valley is ranked fifth, Glendale seventh and Burroughs eighth.
Harvard-Westlake is ranked second in Division I, behind defending champion Long Beach Wilson.
Ventura is ranked second in Division IV, with Royal fourth, Agoura sixth and Buena eighth.
Flintridge Prep is ranked ninth in Division VI.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
The Top Five
Rankings of regional boys' water polo teams
RK LW School (League) 1 1 Harvard-Westlake (Mission) 2 2 Ventura (Channel) 3 3 Royal (Marmonte) 4 4 La Canada (Rio Hondo) 5 NR Burroughs (Almont)