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Burghardt on the Rise as Men's Water Polo Win Streak Reaches 12 Games

Harvard's offense looks to start its attack at home in Blodgett Pool on October 29, 2022.
Harvard's offense looks to start its attack at home in Blodgett Pool on October 29, 2022. By Claire Yuan
By Neo Y. Hou, Contributing Writer

This past weekend, Harvard men’s water polo flew westward to compete at the Julian Fraser Memorial Tournament in California. Heading into the tournament, Harvard was on a eight-game winning-streak after going 4-0 at the Harvard Invitational. The Crimson are now on a 12-game winning streak after defeating the University of the Pacific, San Jose State, No. 16 Santa Clara University, and California Baptist University.

A rising star, first-year utility Jack Burghardt is already making a splash in the pool. An offensive force to be reckoned with, the first-year played a massive role in the team’s victory against No. 14 San Jose State, finishing with three goals, three assists, and three steals. Bughardt added a hat trick, scoring three times against the No. 6 University of the Pacific and put up two goals against No. 17 California Baptist.

Scoring seven goals, senior attacker Owen Hale spearheaded the squad’s offense to defeat the No. 7 University of the Pacific in overtime. Junior utility Tyler Zarcu and senior center Kaleb Archer scored two goals each, and sophomore goalie Tanner Furtak held down the base with 10 saves.

At the Bruno Classic in September, Burghardt finished with 10 goals, one assist, seven steals, and seven ejections drawn. This stellar performance helped him earn the September 4 Northeast Water Polo Conference Rookie of the Week.

From Manhattan Beach, California, the first-year was introduced to the sport at age eight and joined because water polo is less injury-prone compared to other sports.

“When my dad was younger, he struggled a lot when playing sports,” Burghardt said. “I played water polo because a lot of my dad’s friends did, and it’s a sport where you won’t get injured as often.”

Ten years later, Burghardt has become a phenom in the water. He was a varsity water polo player for Harvard-Westlake —the sixth-ranked high school team in the nation. Even more impressive, he was a member of the 2022 USA National Youth Team and the Player of the Game against Canada in the Youth World Championships. Burghardt was also part of the 2021 and 2022 CIF Open Division First Team, as well as the 2021 and 2022 CIF Mission League First Team.

Still, collegiate sports is a new game that’ll take getting used to. Because the competition is more intense, matches are slower, involving more tactics and teamwork, which means every move — and mistake -– has far steeper consequences.

“The way the game is played has changed. It’s a lot slower, and you’re not allowed to make any mistakes,” Burghardt remarked. “If you make a mistake, its effects are magnified so much more because teams are much better at identifying and taking advantage of those mistakes.”

Harvard men's water polo in action in Blodgett Pool on October 29, 2022.
Harvard men's water polo in action in Blodgett Pool on October 29, 2022. By Claire Yuan

Burghardt isn’t the only first-year to make an impact. After walking on, attacker Bradford Dickson is also doing his part on the team.

Dickson, originally from Yuma, Ariz., grew up in Imperial Beach, Calif., where he graduated as salutatorian from Mar Vista High School. Before coming to Harvard, Dickson was the Metro Conference Fall Athlete of the Year as well as a three-time Mesa League Champion, three-time Varsity Water Polo First-Team All-League and three-time medalist at the California State Games.

Dickson excels not only in the pool but also in the concert hall. He started playing cello in third grade, and during high school, Dickson was the principal cellist in the San Diego Youth Symphony and played in a string quartet and trio. Now in college, Dickson strives for more; he plans to complete a dual degree at Harvard and Berklee College of Music with a Master’s Degree in cello performance.

Although music seems drastically different from sports, it’s taught Dickson one of the most important lessons: continuing to show up, no matter what.

“With both water polo and music, if you don’t practice for a week or a month, [the setbacks] are magnified so much. You just feel out of shape. You feel like you’re not coordinated,” Bradford noted. “You just got to keep going and keep grinding if you want to stay at a consistent level and get better.”

In addition to sports, another challenge comes from the classroom. Having to attend lectures, sections, and labs on top of practice, weight-lifting, and film isn’t easy. Fortunately, the water polo team is there to support them.

“We have a very supportive team. It’s one of the most supportive teams I’ve been on, and they’ve made coming to Harvard and moving across the country way easier than I thought it was going to be,” Dickson remarked. “It was like having friends as soon as I got here, and we have a lot of support from the team from the coaches. If we need help with homework, there’s guys who have taken the classes [we are taking] and can help explain a concept to us that we had to miss because we were at a tournament.”

The Crimson are currently 18-3 and will compete against Long Island University, Iona University, and Princeton University this weekend, with the NWPC Championships to be held in mid-November. On a 12-game win streak, the Crimson are staying level-headed, focused on one thing: victory.

“The championship is less than a month away,” Burghardt said. “We have to stay consistent and stay in shape, so we can take it all the way.”

Harvard will take on LIU at 9:00 a.m. EST this Saturday, Oct. 28 in Blodgett Pool. It will jump back in at 7:00 p.m. to face Iona University, concluding the weekend with a Sunday afternoon game against rival Princeton at 3:15 p.m. The games will be streamed on ESPN+.

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