Brianna Utas

Brianna Utas

Local water polo athletes named to Team Canada squads

Three Abbotsford athletes are in Jamaica for the Youth Pan American Championships.

Three Abbotsford water polo players — Eric Martel, Brianna Utas and Emily Aikema — have been selected to represent Canada at the Youth Pan American Championships, which started yesterday, Aug. 25, in Kingston, Jamaica.

A top-five finish at the championships in Jamaica would qualify Team Canada for the 2016 World Youth Water Polo championships, which will be hosted in New Zealand for the women and Montenegro for the men.

All three athletes are members of the Fraser Valley Water Polo Club coached by Justin Mitchell and his brother Kevin, who represented Canada at the 2008 Bejing Olympics.

The trio from Abbotsford were selected by national team coaches at the conclusion of the National Championship League season, during which they were among the leading scorers in the Canada-wide league.

Martel and Aikema, both 17, will be starting their senior year of high school this September. Aikema attends W.J. Mouat while Martel and Utas, 15, are students at Yale Secondary School.

Martel, who was selected for the U18 Canadian water polo team, plays the centre forward position – a physical role which requires size, skill and a degree of wrestling ability.

Utas, who along with Aikema, will be competing with the U17 national women’s team, is a two-metre guard responsible for checking the opposition centres and co-ordinating offensive attacks.

Earlier this year, Utas captained the U16 Fraser Valley Water Polo Club team that won the 2015 National Championship League and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Aikema is a utility player with versatile speed that offers her the ability to play in all positions.