Rewarding Experience for Team Player

CVHS water polo player gets more than he expected when called to principal’s office.

Photo courtesy of Menke Family CVHS water polo player Robbie Menke is on his way to the Rose Bowl game after being presented with an award by assemblymember Mike Gatto.
Photo courtesy of Menke Family
CVHS water polo player Robbie Menke is on his way to the Rose Bowl game after being presented with an award by assemblymember Mike Gatto.


While most will be watching Stanford battle Wisconsin at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 from their living room, one lucky, deserving Crescenta Valley High School student will have some choice seats at the game.

Robbie Menke, a Crescenta Valley High School senior, had no idea why he was being called down to assistant principal Ms. (Sungsook) Kim’s office. A visit to Kim’s office often causes students to be more than just a little nervous.

Menke said he was concerned when he got the request to go down to her office.

“I was sitting in Ms. Kim’s office and she said [don’t worry], I was there for a good reason, but she wouldn’t tell me why,” Menke recalled.

Nevertheless, Menke sat patiently and waited for whatever was to happen. Then the phone on the assistant principal’s office rang.

“It was [Assemblymember] Mike Gatto [on the phone],” Menke said. “He presented me with an award.”

The award included two seats to the Rose Bowl game.

“We were looking for local high school athletes that had overcome adversity,” Gatto said of the award.

Menke has been on the CVHS water polo for all four years of high school. This year was not the best for the team, or for him personally.

“It has been a rough year,” he said.

Neither his coach nor Gatto wanted to go into specifics of Menke’s personal life, but both said he has shown great strength and maturity.

“For a team that struggled with consistency all year,” water polo coach Jan Sakonju said of his player during the team’s banquet, “Robbie was our most consistent player. … There were some rough games but what made Robbie stand out was that he moved forward from games that he was not happy with [and] used the experience to learn and improve.”

Menke was one of the team’s captains.

“He was someone who led by example. Robbie could be relied on to develop his training regimen to focus on skills and conditioning that he needed to fix,” Sakonju said.

Gatto said he was looking for a kid who was a good example to others, a student who demonstrated the ability to persist, someone who showed compassion and cared for his fellow man. He along with his staff reviewed many applicants from Gatto’s 43rd District.

“Robbie is just one of those students everyone agreed on. He excelled not only in water polo but maintained a good grade point average.” he said.

The entire event was a surprise to Menke. He was just happy to be a team player.

“We did pretty well this year,” he said.

He started playing about six months before he started at CVHS.

“I enjoy the competition part [of the game] and enjoy practicing with my teammates,” he said.

The initial shock of receiving the tickets is gone however a new dilemma faces him: who to share that second Rose Bowl ticket with.

“I am trying to figure that out now,” he said.

As an award recipient, Menke is in good company. This is the third water polo player in a row to receive this award. Rane Colvin won in 2009/2010, Manny Martinez in 2011 and now Menke keeps the streak of teamwork, leadership and responsibility going.