Pali High Water Polo Alum Jackie Au Excels in the Pool and in the Classroom at Whittier
Jackie Au did it all while she was a student-athlete at Palisades High School—and she had fun along the way. In August 2015 she tallied the tying goal with 34 seconds left in regulation and added a goal in the ensuing shootout as Westside Aquatics Club’s 18U team beat the Princeton New Jersey Tigers for third place in the bronze division at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics in Santa Ana. As a senior in 2016-17 she led Palisades in scoring and captained the Dolphins to the City finals for the third time in her four years, scoring her team’s only goal in an 8-1 loss to Eagle Rock. In the spring she made 14 saves in the season opener and her goaltending propelled the girls lacrosse team all the way to the City finals, where Palisades fell 6-5 to defending champion Birmingham. To cap off her senior year, Au was named the recipient of the James A. Mercer Scholar-Athlete Award as the Dolphins’ premiere two-sport standout. That summer she scored in all but one of eight games to lead Westside Aquatics’ 18Us to ninth place in the Classic Division gold bracket at Junior Olympics. Now a senior political science major and a center on the Whittier College women’s water polo team, she has a 4.0 GPA, is an Academic All-American, has her own apartment off campus, is an editor on the student newspaper, has worked at a Ceramics summer camp with kids for the last four years and is an intern for California Senator Kamala Harris. In March she tallied eight goals and two assists while leading the Poets to a 3-1 mark at the Gary Troyer Tournament. The Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament, scheduled for May 1 and 3, was canceled due to the coronavirus. Au’s brother Spencer played lacrosse at Palisades and is now a senior at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and her brother Matt wrestled at Pali High.
PP: Why did you choose to attend Whittier? What other schools were you considering?
JA: I chose Whittier College because I really loved the close knit community of the college with its intimate classroom settings, the water polo program, and the fact that I was awarded a really great financial aid package that will allow me to graduate with virtually no student debt. Interestingly enough, Whittier wasn’t my first choice, I had actually planned on going to Brown to play water polo, but Whittier ended up working out because of financial aid, and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice. I love the Poet community and I’m really grateful to attend.
PP: How tough was the transition from high school to college? Did you live in the dorms?
JA: The transition from high school to college wasn’t particularly difficult for me actually. I was really lucky to have amazing professors and advisors my first year that helped make that transition from highschool to college very smooth. I also had great upperclassmen on my team that helped me get into the groove of school rather quickly. I did live in the dorms for the first three years of college, and those three years were definitely never boring! Living in a dorm can be hard, you know with not a lot of personal space, but it really brings you together with your friends as well. And I’ve made some of my closest friendships by living in the dorms.
PP: Do you keep in touch with high school teammates? Do you come back to visit Palisades?
JA: Like a lot of people when they graduate high school and go on to college, I did drift away from my teammates from Pali. I do still keep in touch via social media, but I’m not very close to them. Although I’m very grateful for the time we all spent together. I haven’t come back to Pali to visit as I’ve had quite a busy schedule.
PP: What hs been your proudest accomplishment in college? When does the season start?
JA: I’d say my proudest accomplishment in college so far has been being an All-Academic team member as well as a member of the Dean’s List for the past three years. I’m also incredibly proud of my work as the head section editor for Campus Life for the student newspaper, The Quaker Campus.
PP: What coach has made the biggest influence on you?
JA: My current coach David Kasa has definitely made the biggest influence on me. Coming into college, it’s difficult to maintain your footing in the new competitive nature of collegiate water polo, but Kasa really helped me improve my skills and water polo IQ and has also really helped me have a more rounded view of the sport as a whole. I’m really grateful for his support and knowledge.
PP: What are you majoring in and what are your career goals?
JA: I’m majoring in Political Science and minoring in Anthropology. My career goal is to pursue law, so I’m currently working on my applications to law school and continuing my internship with Senator Kamala Harris.
PP: What are some of your hobbies? What do you like to do and where do you like to go in your free time?
JA: I’m a studio potter, so I love to throw pottery on the wheel. It’s my creative outlet and a really great way for me to relax and unwind. I also enjoy road cycling, hiking, and camping. I also love to go to the mountains in my free time to camp and to hike with my friends.
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