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Otay Ranch’s Cornwell dons cap as 2013-14 Star-News Scholar/Student-Athlete of the Year Phillip Brents | Fri, Jun 20 2014 03:04 PM

Otay Ranch High School graduate Emma Cornwell is headed to where few student-athletes in the Metro Conference ever get the opportunity to go: a major university to play for a nationally-recognized sports team.

Cornwell, the east side Chula Vista school’s Outstanding Female Senior Class Athlete of the Year, will attend the University of Southern California this fall to play women’s water polo on an athletic scholarship.

She enters USC having compiled a 4.39 grade-point average during her stay at ORHS where she was a California Scholastic Federation honors award-winner and set numerous school and section records in the sport of girls water polo from her goaltender position.

She is The Star-News Scholar/Student-Athlete of the Year.

“Emma is an amazing athlete and one of the best water polo players at her position in this year’s recruiting class,” Otay Ranch High School athletic director Ian Cumming said. “She’s set several school records for her prowess as a water polo goalkeeper and that even includes scoring goals from the other end of the pool.

“Few may also know that she was accomplished in synchronized swimming before she began playing water polo. That, in itself, is a demanding sport where swimmers may be required to be underwater for lengths of time.”

Cornwell is one of four female water polo athletes at Otay Ranch to progress to the NCAA Division I level.

She does so after setting numerous school and section records. Her school records include most shutouts in one season (five), most saves in two seasons (593), five-meter penalty shot blocks (eight) and most goals scored by a goalie (nine).

She ranks among the top 10 in the section record book for both single-season saves and career saves; she holds the section record with five shutouts.

A first team all-league performer her junior and senior seasons, she helped the Mustangs advance to this past season’s Division I playoffs. She made a school-record 18 saves in a 4-3 loss to Fallbrook that ended her team’s otherwise stellar  season with an overall 18-6 record.

Cornwell has helped lead Otay Ranch to a remarkable Mesa League championship five-peat (two outright titles, two co-championships and one tri-championship) during her three years on the team. The Mustangs were 8-0 in league play her sophomore season, 6-2 in league play during her junior season and 7-1 this season.

During the 2013-14 season, she recorded 16 assists and 30 defensive steals.

Otay Ranch High School water polo and swimming coach Ernie Medina said Cornwell has earned a coveted spot in the school’s aquatics hall of fame and has also had her cap number retired. Other Mustangs to have their cap numbers retired include Christina Allison (Siena University), Roni Coffer (San Diego State) and Sarah Medina (UC Irvine).

“Emma was the top goalie in the county to be recruited (at the collegiate level),” the elder Medina noted. “She is one of the all-time best female players out of Otay Ranch and the South Bay.

“It will give me great pleasure to watch Emma from USC play against my daughter Sarah from UC Irvine next season. USC played to a close win over Irvine, 12-10, at the NCAAs this season. USC finished third and UCI sixth in the nation.”

Cornwell is a member of the San Diego Shores 18U club team that will be competing at this summer’s Junior Olympic national championship tournament at Stanford. She is currently in Barcelona, Spain, with the Shores’ national travel team for 10 days of training and competition at the international level.

Queen of the sea
Cornwell started synchronized swimming when she was 10 and competed nationally for five years.

Amazingly, her water polo career didn’t get started until she was a junior at ORHS. She’s had no regrets at making the abrupt switch.

“My sophomore year of high school I wanted to start participating in high school sports and an awesome water polo coach by the name of Ernie Medina lovingly forced me into trying polo as he thought I’d have a great future in the sport — it turns out he was right!” Cornwell explained. “I’ve been recruited to the University of Southern California for water polo. They have had five national championship titles and finished third this year nationally for Division I. I will be a gerontology major at SC.”

Cornwell admits the Trojan tradition has inspired her. 

“As I learned more about water polo, my athletic inspiration would have to be Flora Bolonyai, who is the current goalie for SC,” Cornwell said. “She has an amazing record and many international accomplishments. However, throughout high school I was inspired by my coach, Ernie Medina, and his family, as they are very committed to their faith and just all-around a very loving, caring family. I was blessed to meet them.”

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