In assessing Kai Blankenship’s ingrained competitive nature, she likes only one thing over winning.
Yes, that won’t lose.
“I really hate losing,” Agura High School senior said. “Whether it’s water polo or table tennis or something, I just don’t want to lose.”
Blankenship dominated the right side of the scoreboard for four years in Agoura’s highly regarded women’s water polo program.
One of her accomplishments as a Charger mainstay was securing the most dominant winning streak in the region. This season, Agura has completed the league’s 170-game winning streak and 17-game winning streak in the Marmont League with an 8-0 run.
The last time Agula lost the league was on February 3, 2004. Blankenship made sure her team passed the baton to the next wave of Chargers.
“We don’t lose in the league, it’s almost accepted,” she said. “You don’t want to be in a team that does lose. We use it to win the CIF championship. We always have high goals.”
In a stellar senior season, Blankenship and her teammates were just one dream short of an ideal farewell for retiring head coach Jason Rosenthal.
Agoura ended up going 25-9, including an 8-7 loss to Corona del Mar in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoff title race. Blankenship scored two goals in the final quarter to put top-seeded Agura close, but the Chargers couldn’t get over it.
“It’s been really tough because that’s what we’ve been aiming for all season,” Blankenship said. “We wanted to win the CIF championship for Jason in his final year. But there are so many great memories this season.
“We’re such a close group of people. We trust and trust each other. We have a lot of fun with each other.”
Blankenship, headed to Stanford, ended the season with a string of top honors, including a Marmonte League MVP award and a first-team selection for an all-CIF-SS Division 1 squad.
Now, she’s The Star’s Female Aquatic Player of the Year.
In her final high school campaign, she led the Chargers with 104 goals and 60 steals, 56 blocks and 8 blocks. She also contributed 27 assists.
Rosenthal, who resigned as coach Agura after three years in the program, said the player had a lot to admire.
“She always had goals in mind and worked hard to achieve them,” Rosenthal said. “The most important thing is that Kai is very good at training. She always wants to do things better and improve in the best way she can. She has the drive to win and that makes her and her teammates better.”
Blankenship developed a special relationship with Rosenthal, beginning with her entering the sport with her sister Nevada and getting into water polo when she was 8 years old.
Rosenthal was her youth club coach until high school.
“He’s the only coach I know,” Blankenship said. “He taught me to love the sport. He made me a better player. He has the ability to connect with his players and make us appreciate hard work and hard work.
“He communicates very well and that’s what makes him a great coach.”
Blankenship’s ingrained work ethic deserves credit, Rosenthal said.
“During the first phase of COVID, when there was no pool available, she was swimming in the ocean 3 to 4 days a week to stay in shape,” Rosenthal said.
Blankenship’s heartfelt dedication to water polo has made her a star, including a member of the U.S. youth national team. She recently participated in international competitions in Greece and Germany.
The lessons learned in water polo have translated into success in other areas of her life.
“Water polo has always been my life,” she said. “A lot of my friends have come from the sport, and these will last forever. I’ve learned commitment and hard work, which has also helped me become a better leader. I’ve been able to use these lessons in the classroom, in work, and everything else.”
Blankenship will undoubtedly make an impact on the strong Stanford program and shine in her student life.
She has made an impact at Agoura High School and the community, including working with students with special needs through the Agoura Stingrays swimming program.
Blankenship was selected to serve on the first-year Social Justice Curriculum Committee, which works to integrate literature of all races and cultures into school curricula and city libraries.
“That’s something I think is very important,” she said.
How smart is Blankenship? Be smart enough to never focus too much on losses.
“I have a 30-minute rule,” she laughs. “I’ll piss myself off for 30 minutes and then I have to move on. Well, maybe more than 30 minutes after we lost the CIF championship, but I still realise I can get over it.
“I have so many things to be thankful for in my life. I have to cherish every opportunity I have.”
Star County Women’s Water Polo Second Team
- Claire Dahlan, Agura
- Molly Blosser, Agura
- Grace King, Oaks Christian
- Gabriel Mullin, Westlake
- Adelina Martinez, Oxnard
- Mary Pecht, Ventura
- Jackie Veloz, Rio Mesa
- Kathryn Salazar, OK
- Ida Tully-Giles, Villanova Prep
- Emma Bowen, Thousand Oaks
Loren Ledin is the prep editor for The Star. He can be reached at email@example.com or 805-437-0285.