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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

He'll Pool All of His Resources in One Sport

September 23, 2003|Eric Sondheimer

Adam Hewko wants your help. Whether friend or foe, classmate or rival, coach or fan, he needs advice on what figures to be his toughest decision next to choosing a wife.

Every day, he ponders the same question: What sport should he pursue in college, water polo or swimming?

"Every day, I think about it," he said. "When I'm playing, when I'm practicing, when I swim, when I go to bed. I try to get everybody's opinion."

He might be California's best two-sport aquatic athlete since Olympic champion Matt Biondi, so choosing the right sport is a big deal.

Last year as a junior at Anaheim Servite, Hewko was the Southern Section Division II co-player of the year in water polo. Last spring in Division I swimming, he won the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley.

While some schools have told him he can compete in both sports in college, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Hewko seems convinced that focusing on one sport is the way to go. But which one?

"It is tough," he said. "I'm facing the decision now. What am I going to be best at? If I do just swimming, I'll be a better swimmer. If I just do water polo, I'll be a better water polo player. You can be a jack of all trades or a master in one."

Biondi played on national championship water polo teams at California in 1983, '84 and '87 and won eight Olympic gold medals in swimming.

Servite water polo Coach Jack Sprague said Hewko possesses the athletic skills to excel in both sports at an elite level.

"Very seldom comes around someone who can carry the load in both," he said.

Hewko, though, is intrigued by how good he might become if he devotes all his energy, training and focus to one sport.

"To me, there is no wrong decision," he said. "It's just a choice, and there is no wrong choice. It's just a different road I'll take. They're both hard roads. I think I can be so much better than I am.

"I don't do water polo in the summer, and it's curious to think how I would perform and how much better I would be if I lifted hard and trained a few months. But if I don't do water polo, that means I have three extra months in swimming, and that's important."

Hewko is happy to hear anyone's opinion, but don't expect him to poll his entire family. He has more than 60 cousins, not to mention numerous aunts, uncles and nephews.

To have a Hewko family reunion would require renting out the Belmont Plaza swim stadium in Long Beach and a nearby hotel, plus booking a plane from New York, since there is a large group of Hewkos living there.

His father, Daniel, was one of 15 brothers and sisters who grew up in Hacienda Heights. Two of Daniel's brothers, twins Jon and James, were football standouts at Los Altos High in the 1970s. One sister is the mother of 12 children. Adam's mother, Leticia, was one of seven children.

"We all used to play football, but it's a sport you kind of get mutilated in," Daniel said.

That's why many of the Hewko offspring have plunged into aquatic sports. There are the Hewkos of San Clemente -- Jonathan and Jordan, who went on to play water polo for USC, and Josh, for UCLA. There are the Hewkos of Newport Beach, where Christina was a standout water polo player at Corona del Mar and now plays for Stanford. There are the Hewkos of Laguna Hills, led by Tyler and Natalie, both water polo players. And Adam's three younger sisters and younger brother are into water sports.

"You want to talk about a phone bill," Adam said of communicating with family members. "Family is so important. It is awesome. I absolutely love it."

If Hewko chooses swimming, he'll probably sign a letter of intent in November. If it's water polo, he'll wait until February. Michigan, USC, California, Stanford and UCLA are among the schools waiting for Hewko to decide.

"I have to find what I have a passion for the most," he said.

Once the decision is made, Hewko knows what he'll do.

"I'm going to take it as far as I can go," he said. "I'm not going to settle for mediocrity, and that's the truth."

Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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