Gilchrist a champion again

When Kaleigh Gilchrist went to Salt Creek on Monday she aimed for a rare feat: to become a national champion in two sports in the same year.

As the waves crashed, and she mastered each set to reach the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. finals she grew excited to reach her goal.

She scored a 7.5 in her first set in the finals. She said she wanted a good score as a back-up. She went out with a bang. She scored a 9.4 to "seal the deal," she said Tuesday.

Gilchrist, a former Newport Harbor High standout who won an NCAA title with the USC women's water polo team last month, captured the NSSA college women's championship.

"I wanted to prove myself, that I can perform well in two sports," Gilchrist said during a telephone interview just before driving to Los Angeles to train with the USC Trojans. "I did really well in prior years [at the NSSA Championships], second [in 2011] and fifth [in 2012]. I told myself that I wanted to win this one. I came in wanting to win. I knew it would pretty cool to say that I was a national champion in two sports."

Gilchrist was pretty cool in the finals, posting the 9.4 to seal her championship. There were six surfers in the finals. Marissa Shaw was the only to get the closest to Gilchrist with an 8.5.

Gilchrist's national title with the Trojans was definitely more dramatic. Gilchrist, an NCAA All-Tournament first-team selection, was part of the first NCAA final to go into overtime. USC beat Stanford, 10-9, in the third sudden-death overtime period.

It was USC's fourth national title in women's water polo.

Gilchrist, who will be a senior in the fall, was second on the team with 45 goals. She earned All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation second-team honors. She was an All-American and All-MPSF second-team honoree in 2012.

"The water polo national title was absolutely amazing," Gilchrist said. "We really came together as a team."

Gilchrist said the Trojans began summer workouts on Monday, but she was excused to compete in the NSSA Championships. She said she went surfing Tuesday morning too then later went to practice at USC.

Gilchrist, who won the high school varsity girls' crown at the NSSA Championships in 2010, said she will have a "pretty mellow," summer.

In August, she said she will travel to France and Spain for surfing events. Then it will be back to work for the USC women's water polo team.

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