It’s hard to miss the 6’6” center on the UC Davis water polo team. Add in the fact that he’s led the Aggies in goals his last two seasons, with 49 and 68 respectively, and it’s no wonder players and coaches love working with senior Aaron Salit.
“Talk about humble, he’s so grounded and so bright, it has been great to have him,” said coach Steve Doten. “It may be the first time in all my years here where we had a real center, we’re going to miss having 6’6” at that position. He’s matured so much, it’s amazing how fast it goes by, he’s a tremendous individual and the guy is going to be super successful in his life.”
Salit sat down with Aggie sports writer Russell Eisenman to talk water polo, school and life after Davis.
Was water polo one of the first sports you played?
I started swimming when I was nine, and I played all sports from baseball to roller hockey, but I found water polo going into high school after eighth grade. I hated swimming, but I was really good at it, so I tried water polo, and that was the first sport I ever loved playing.
When did you start to think about playing water polo at a Division I level university?
I didn’t really open my eyes to it until senior year when I saw other friends heading down that path and doing really well with my high school team. They’re the ones that kind of nudged me in that direction.
Why did you choose UC Davis?
Well, I wouldn’t have played in college had I not come to UC Davis. I came here for the food science program because it’s the best in the nation. My agenda was to go to culinary school straight from high school, but the opportunity to play water polo arose, and I decided that if I could go and have a university education, especially at Davis, it would put me higher in the culinary world after. So that, plus the fact that I could play water polo, it just all added up.
What are your responsibilities as a center?
My position is to become open in front of the cage, and either shoot it and/or draw an ejection. I also help draw the defenders off my teammates so they can score from the outside. It takes being really active and working hard the whole time and wrestling with a guy on your back.
Any pre-game rituals?
Eat a good meal and say a little prayer. Something simple. Be physically ready and tell myself that it’s another game.
Coming off your junior season in which you led the team in goals, how did you motivate yourself to do even better this season?
The pressure becomes more and more as you become a senior, and with the love and passion I have for this sport, I play water polo for my team. I came here for food, and I was blessed with the opportunity to be able to play on this team, so, if it was just a sport, I would quit, because it takes a lot of work. It’s all for my team and I always want to show my team that I want to play my role to the best of my ability.
Do you have any set plans for after you’re done with school at Davis?
My dad, being a chef for 30 years, has always wanted me to travel, and traveling is a huge focus for me, because I couldn’t go abroad at Davis with water polo, school and working at the Bike Barn. I’ll be taking off the whole year and traveling to Vietnam. It’s a place I really want to go, and I want to travel and see what’s around, and then come back and go to culinary school.
Do you have a favorite food to cook and a favorite food to eat?
I feel like I don’t know everything for cooking, so I haven’t really found my favorite dish yet. My favorite food, to be honest, is raw oysters. A little interesting, I know, but I like the more exotic foods.
RUSSELL EISENMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.