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Los Angeles Times
Water Polo; Puerto Rico Gets One-Time Exception
BY Dan Arritt
July 25, 2003
USA Water Polo has taken the unusual step of setting aside a bylaw that restricts the women's senior national championships to club teams based in the United States, allowing the Puerto Rican national team into the field.
The decision was made after the 16-team field was reduced by one when it was learned the Agriculture Area Aquatics team of Salinas was inadvertently entered into the senior championships, rather than the under-20 national championships.
In the hope that such a scenario would arise, the Puerto Rican team paid its entrance fee two months ago and scheduled a 15-day training session in Long Beach during the same period as the senior national championships.
"We know that in California, there are a lot of good water polo teams, I think the best in the U.S," said Puerto Rican Coach Yarni Rivera. "We came here to practice, hoping we can also get into the nationals."
Andy Burke, a member of USA Water Polo's executive council, said that organization normally would give preference to another U.S.-based club team, but the expansion of the tournament from 12 teams this year and the ongoing FINA world championships in Barcelona left no replacements.
Burke said the executive council didn't mind making a one-time exception for Puerto Rico, a self-governing U.S. commonwealth whose national swimming organization annually directs the Pan-Am Games.
"They have been a very close ally for our organization," Burke said. "We try to help them out whenever we can."
That left one problem for tournament director Nick Baba -- the under-20 championship field was full and Agriculture Area Aquatics canceled their hotel reservations. Soon after, Sunset San Diego, entered in both tournaments, dropped out of the under-20s, which started Monday and ended Thursday.
Baba called Agriculture Area Coach Gary Figueroa last Saturday, but he learned their previous rooms had sold out within two hours.
"It was a tournament director's nightmare," Baba said.
Fortunately, members of Agriculture Area Aquatics found housing in Placentia in time to play its first game Monday morning, and closer accommodations were found for the rest of the tournament.
"It worked out fine," Figueroa said.