Sports

Menlo Park's KK Clark realizing her Olympic dreams

 

Aquatics excellence runs in KK Clark's family and it started at Stanford.

Her uncle, Cardinal grad Chris Dorst, is an Olympic silver medalist in water polo. Her aunt, Marybeth Dorst, won eight NCAA titles while swimming for Stanford. She made the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, but was unable to take part due to the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Games.

Clark's three cousins -- Lindsay, Emily and Rebecca Dorst -- were all water polo standouts at Menlo-Atherton and Sacred Heart Prep before going on to play at Cal, Stanford and UCLA.

Thus Clark's Olympic dreams began at an early age.

"The seed was planted early," Clark said.

Her dreams became reality on June 16 when she was named to the U.S. team for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

The announcement was received by Clark with both relief and joy.

"I've been on the bubble," said Clark, a Menlo Park resident who played at Sacred Heart Prep and UCLA. "I've always been kind of a role player, not a big name. My mindset was that I had to earn it every day."

The U.S. won the gold medal in 2012, the year Clark was named UCLA's Senior Female Athlete of the Year, and are heavy favorites to repeat. But Clark says the team's focus is on the process more than the final outcome.

"We talk about how we want to play, our style of play," Clark said. "When we execute our style, hopefully the result is that we repeat. But nothing is guaranteed."

One needs to look no further than the Warriors for an example of how nothing is guaranteed in sports.

Clark was asked to characterize the team's style of play:

"Real creative, quick and athletic," Clark said. "Some teams like to slow the game down. Our strength is our swimming. We have a lot of weapons."

Sounds again not unlike the Warriors.

"We try not to make too many comparisons" Clark said with a laugh in an interview conducted prior to game 7 of the NBA finals. "But our team follows them. Small ball. The Warriors are fun to watch."

The Giants are another Bay Area team Clark draws inspiration from.

"My family has been season ticket holders to the Giants since I was a kid," Clark said. "The Giants are my team."

And she discovered a water polo application while watching the 2014 World Series.

"Watching 'MadBum' pitch, to me it was like shooting against a goalie," Clark said. "I probably lost it a little bit. But ultimately you want to translate the ideals of one sports to different skill sets."

Sacred Heart Prep has won nine consecutive Central Coast Section girls water polo championships. Clark played on the first team in that run.

"She was a co-captain and primary 2-meter defender," SHP coach Jon Burke said. "A lot of fun to coach, extremely athletic and a student of the game."

A lot of outstanding players have gone through the SHP program, but Clark is the first to make an Olympic team.

"I'm super happy for her, the whole school community is rejoicing and excited to support her in the Olympic Games," Burke said. "To make the number one team in the world you're at the top of the pyramid of thousands and thousands of fantastic athletes."

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