The biggest splash for Kaelin Wolf was outside the swimming pool in the company of friends and teammates he has known for years.
The Silver Spring Township youth was one of 10 high school athletes named last November to the First All-State Team by the Pennsylvania Water Polo Association.
Half of those honored including Wolf were starters for the Cumberland Valley High School team that went undefeated last fall and won back-to-back state championships.
“It was a really cool moment,” said Wolf, 18, a senior, recalling the awards ceremony. “All of us were standing up there together being recognized for hours upon hours of hard work that we had put in all the way back through middle school.”
A swimmer since the second grade, Wolf was fascinated by water polo but only gave it a try after another boy said he could show up for practice and join the team.
Wolf, the son of Bob and Anita Wolf, followed through and has been involved in the sport since the seventh grade. “It is more competitive and dynamic than swimming,” he said. “It’s a mind game of action and reaction. How can you put yourself in the best position where maybe 20 seconds later you can make a move to help you score and win?
“I like the challenge,” Wolf added. “I get to incorporate my swimming skills. It tires you out and is great exercise to help you stay in shape.”
In his junior year, Wolf set a new school record in the number of assists – about 86 for the 2015 season. A team captain his senior year, Wolf was part of a group of starters who had peaked in capability.
“The biggest growing point for us was working together and smoothly incorporating everyone’s strengths into the game play rather than try to have one person do everything,” Wolf said. “We learned when to take charge and when to step back and let somebody else have a go at it. We did that very well.”
It helped that the starters were a tight-knit group with experience in swimming going back 10 years. “We had known each other for a very long time,” Wolf said. “The thing we kept getting warned about was don’t let your ego get in the way. We played with confidence but didn’t underestimate our opponents.”
Wolf is an important team player in another facet of student life at Cumberland Valley High School. He was one of about six teens who launched in his sophomore year The Mirror — an arts and literary webzine featuring short stories, poems and artwork done by high school students.
“It’s really neat we can give them a place to publish their work,” Wolf said. “We get some really good submissions. I like seeing the work my fellow students put out.”
Wolf was approached in his freshman year by a female classmate whose older brother was once involved in the old high school literary magazine, which became defunct. Working together, they formed a group that recruited a teacher as the club adviser and launched www.cvmirror.org during Wolf’s sophomore year.
“The five or six of us were all involved in every decision,” Wolf said. “What type of stuff did we want to accept ... How we wanted to publish it ... How to get the word out. ... That came slowly together at first.”
Since its launch, The Mirror has been the host site for a number of competitions including a flash fiction contest and a poetry slam. There was a love story contest around Valentine’s Day.
“As head of the writing editors, I look over all the writing submissions,” Wolf said. “We do a group editing.” If the submitted work passes muster, it is uploaded onto the webzine site. If it needs work, the suggested editorial changes are taken back to the author for a rewrite or revision.
There is a plan underway to produce a paper copy of the webzine sometime before the end of the school year. The webzine includes videos, digital animation and even original student-produced music.
After graduating in June, Wolf plans to attend college in the fall and major in either pre-medicine or biology. “I want to go to medical school and specialize in neurology or psychiatry,” he said. Wolf also wants to study abroad sometime during his college experience.
In his freshman year at Cumberland Valley, Wolf went on a school trip to China that had a lasting impression. “It opened my eyes to how diverse the world is,” he said. “I got a worldly view of how people live. That was an amazing experience.” He had already taken three years of Chinese as a foreign language in school.
Growing up in Cumberland County, Wolf was a fan of "Mystery Diagnosis," a television docudrama series that aired on Oprah Winfrey Network. Each episode focused on people who suffered from obscure medical ailments and their hunt for an accurate diagnosis.
Occasionally the show featured the expertise of a neurologist who shared their opinion on a diagnosis. “It sounded like a cool job,” Wolf recalled. That show got him interested.
Since then, Wolf has done independent projects and has learned all he could about the field. He especially enjoyed an advanced placement class in psychology.
Wolf gained valuable first-hand experience as a volunteer in the emergency room of a Pinnacle Health Hospital. “I went around with the nurses and got to see all of the different cases,” he said. Wolf helped staff prepare rooms for patients and saw how the hospital handled the mentally ill who needed crisis intervention.