Garces senior Lee Begin has spent so much time just trying to get into the Air Force Academy that the spectacle that is National Signing Day didn’t dawn on him until it was almost too late.
Begin was accepted into the academy and received a scholarship to play for the men’s water polo team, but was unaware of the actual spectacle of signing day.
“I actually didn’t even know about signing day until (Tuesday),” Begin said. “Getting into the academy is such a long process. I showed up in class and everyone just dropped everything that they were doing. That showed something to me. It showed that they cared. So much.”
Begin was the lone athlete signing at Garces on Wednesday during the lunch hour, but brought in a crowd to the campus gymnasium for his ceremony.
“It went from a humble and low-key thing to something people really want to share with you,” Begin said. “It is really important to share this experience with everyone else.”
Begin helped lead Garces to the Central Section Division II championship as the team advanced to the inaugural CIF Northern California D-II semifinals in Sacramento.
The Rams received their rings for their section title Wednesday morning as Begin was handed his just before signing with Air Force.
Both moments bring joy to Begin, and on a day that the two are intertwined, he couldn’t help but look to the future.
“Both excite me,” Begin said. “Not only to be able to go to the academy and play water polo at the Division I level is exciting, but as all sports are, it’s being able to move on and plan for the next five-to-10 years of my life and to be able to serve as an officer has helped in that aspect.”
Begin will follow a family tradition of military service. His grandfather and a handful of other relatives, Begin said, served in branches of the military, most notably the Navy.
“The act of service for my country, a lot of my family members have served,” Begin said. “It’s an ode to them to carry on the legacy of service to our country as well as continuing on with the sport of water polo.”
Air Force competes in the Western Water Polo Association, an NCAA national collegiate conference along with other programs like Fresno Pacific, Santa Clara, UC Davis and UC San Diego.
“Signing and moving on is even more exciting than winning a Valley championship,” Begin said. “This starts a new leaf that I will be turning over in my life. That’s something special that even a Valley championship can’t compare to.”