The University of California Berkeley Women’s Water Polo Team, one of the nation’s best, has signed yet another top recruit — and she happens to be a 9-year-old from Richmond.
On Friday, a special Draft Day celebration was held at the Speiker Aquatics Complex for Richmond youngster Brianna Herrera Pankey, who signed a Letter of Intent to become an official member of the Cal Bears water polo team. Pankey will attend Bears practices, games, team dinners, events and more.
Of course, the 9-year-old isn’t quite ready to hop in the water with some of the nation’s best college water polo players.
Brianna has been named a “top recruit” through a program by Boston-based Team IMPACT. The national nonprofit’s program matches children facing serious and chronic illnesses with college and university programs, with the aim of “forming life-long bonds and life-changing outcomes.”
Pankey was diagnosed in 2009 with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder in which bones break easily, often with little to no cause.
Brianna and her new teammates will cheer each other on in 2019.
“The child joins the athletic team and the student-athletes join the child’s support team,” according to Team IMPACT. “Throughout the journey, the child gains strength, camaraderie and support while the student-athletes experience lessons of courage, resiliency and perspective they can’t learn in a classroom.”
During Friday’s press conference, the student athletes gave a water polo cap to Brianna, with one stating, “We just feel like our squad is complete for the season now that we have signed our final recruit. And we’re really excited for this Spring.”
Since 2011, Team IMPACT has matched nearly 1,700 children with more than 500 colleges and universities in the U.S.