Recent Peninsula High graduate David Amano said taking his junior year off from playing water polo was the biggest regret he had in high school.
Determined to set up his future, Amano dedicated his time to his studies.
"I'd struggled with one AP class during my freshman and sophomore years, but my junior year, I started to ramp up my AP class count," Amano said. "For me, it's school first. I had to make sure I was getting the grades I wanted, and sports was coming secondary."
When he returned to the water polo program his senior year, Amano was focused on leaving a lasting legacy at Peninsula.
"I came in not knowing the team, and I saw a lot of potential in the water," Amano said. "There were so many good, fresh guys, and I wanted to work with them to try and create a culture of getting our water polo program back to being a powerhouse."
What impressed first-year coach Jeff Kaye was Amano's dedication to the program.
"David came to me after a few practices and asked if he could be a captain, and I told him he was my field colonel," Kaye said. "He's one of those rare kids. We'd sit down before or after practice and talk about what we would work on, and nine times out of ten, he would agree."
But it was Amano's dedication to helping out the program's newcomers that Kaye raved about.
"He's picking out the young kids and telling them to swim with him, and encouraging them to dig deeper to get better," Kaye said. "At team dinners, he's helping people with homework. It didn't matter what year they were. If they told David they needed help, he'd help them."
It was because of this selfless attitude Kaye nominated Amano for one of Peninsula's Most Inspirational Athlete awards.
During the June 3 Athlete of the Year presentation on Zoom, Amano said he was blown away when he heard his name as one of Peninsula’s Most Inspirational Athletes.
"I didn't expect it at all. I'm very grateful for Coach Kaye, because I don't think I'd have been able to get (the award) without him," Amano said. "He allowed me so much leeway to work with the kids this year."
With his time at Peninsula ending in March due to the escalating coronavirus pandemic, Amano has turned his focus to his future. He'll attend the University of San Diego on an NROTC (Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps) Scholarship, and plans to double-major in electrical engineering and computer science.
"I saw the interaction between software and hardware, and I took some computer science classes at Peninsula and am really interested in coding," Amano said. "Those two majors interact well, and it helps me bridge the gap between hardware and software."
While other students have the option of a hybrid between taking classes online and attending class on campus, Amano will report to campus in early August to train with the NROTC program.
His goal is to become a Navy Seal.
"Growing up, I thought everyone wanted to be a Seal after seeing particular movies as a kid," said Amano, who mentioned the movie “Lone Survivor” as his inspiration. "I thought going into the Seals would be the best use of my ability."
But it's the lasting impression Amano left at the Rolling Hills Estates campus that he hopes will continue to be passed on.
"You want to leave your school better than how you found it, and I wanted the program to be better," Amano said of his legacy with the water polo team. "I wanted to help work with the younger ones, and build a strong culture and a strong team. I wanted to help out as many of the younger kids as possible."
Kaye called Amano one of those special athletes he doesn't see too often.
"I've been coaching sports for three decades, and David is one of those guys who is the cornerstone of a team," Kaye said. "He doesn't want to be a superstar, he just wants to be a leader."