For four years at San Jose State University, the 6-foot blonde fused a passion for reading, an initial interest in history, and a carefree personality with the excitement of being a starting field player on the Spartans perennial top-10 nationally ranked women's water polo team.
On May 29, when the University conducts its annual commencement ceremony in the 30,000-seat Spartan Stadium, Bridget McKee, from Newbury Park, Calif., will be among the thousands of undergrads to complete their bachelor's degree requirements and will stand as one of two San Jose State University Outstanding Graduating Seniors in the Class of 2010. The awards acknowledge scholarship achievements and contributions to the community.
The anthropology major entered her final semester with a 3.87 grade-point average and is graduating with honors. Throughout her San Jose State academic career, she was one of the top-five student-athletes based on grade-point average, a San Jose State University Scholar-Athlete, a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation All-Academic team selection and a recipient of multiple All-American Academic Awards from the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches.
A full-time starter on the Spartans' women's water polo team that finished as high as sixth and no lower than eighth in the final national coaches' poll during her career, her unconventional right-handed shot according to her coach Lou Tully was one that propelled her to number-three on the university's all-time scoring list with 160 career goals.
"I'm really proud to have been chosen. Student-athletes have a unique role in the university. I'm really glad to be recognized as someone who has done a lot for the school. I feel all the student-athletes have done a lot for the university," says McKee who chose San Jose State's scholarship offer over nearby UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Bakersfield.
"Everyone who goes to school represents the university. We (student-athletes) do so in a bigger way, a more public way. I feel we make a public face for San Jose State. When we go places and do things, we are representatives of the university. Everyone takes on that role with a lot of pride."
McKee definitely has places to go after she has her degree in hand. First, there's a trip to Western Belize in Central America's Yucatan. As part of UCLA's Archaeological Field Program, she will investigate remains from the Mayan Indian culture. Then, it's an anticipated 27-month Peace Corps assignment. She says her preferences are to return to Central America or be given a South America, Central Asia or Southeast Asia assignment.
SPARTANS FOR SPARTANS ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL
Tully first found out about McKee at a 2005 summer water polo camp in Kearns, Utah, a community 20 miles outside of Salt Lake City. The Spartans coach will admit readily that he had his recruiting eye on other Ventura Coast club team players. But, at the urging of former San Jose State players Nichole Lipman, now a counselor in the Ventura County Unified School District, and Ventura College women's water polo coach Mary McDonough Giles, the team captain of the first Spartan water polo team in 1998, Tully stepped up his recruiting of McKee.
"She had speed and size. It was just a matter of getting a little more water polo background," the Spartans coach said of the one-time all-league sprint freestyle specialist for Newbury Park High School and second-generation water polo player. Her dad, Steve McKee, a carpenter, played water polo in high school.