Everyone knew Kieran Van Horsen was a top-notch water polo player, starting in 2015, when the West Albany High player racked up the most goals scored by a freshman.
But they didn't believe the 18-year-old could take down West Albany's record for total goals for a career. That belonged to Austin Barton, who scored 310 goals during his four years, which wrapped up in 2014. Barton played in 36 more games than students did in later years — the teams played more tournaments in those days, and counted Jamboree games toward the total, which is no longer done — and coach Rob Nelke just figured the record was sewn up for good.
Then came Van Horsen. After scoring 42 goals that freshman year, he added 107 as a sophomore, the best single season scoring average per game for 2016. He topped those totals the next two years, scoring 122 goals in 2017 and a whopping 149 as a senior this year.
Total goals: 420. Total games: 110.
"The previous record we thought was unbreakable, but he went and beat it," Nelke said.
Van Horsen shrugs at the achievement. He's pleased, yes, but said it was never the point.
"I always saw it and heard about it, but most of the time I forgot what my goal scoring was," he said. "I just wanted to see how far the team could get."
A lifelong Albany resident, Van Horsen has been swimming since roughly age 4, starting swimming with a club team in Corvallis around first grade. He moved on to club meets around age 11 or 12.
"I really liked the competition side of it," he said. "I really liked diving in the water and working as hard as I can, doing the best I can."
And, he found, he was good at it — much better than in any other sport he tried. In addition to his scoring record, he is second on West Albany's records for total career assists (201) and total career steals (368).
"I couldn't do it in track and field because I'm kinda slow on land," Van Horsen said.
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And while he may aim like an ace with a water polo ball, he hasn't been able to translate the skill to basketball.
"I'm really uncoordinated out of the water," Van Horsen said, and laughed. "I couldn't make a hoop to save my life."
Van Horsen's older brother, Adrian, now 22, competed in water polo for both West and Corvallis High School and got his younger sibling interested in the sport.
It didn't hurt that Van Horsen is 6 feet, 4 inches and lifts weights every day. That strength and size makes a difference in a sport that relies so much on endurance, Nelke said, especially for Van Horsen's preferred position as a 2-meter player, in the middle of the arc around the goal, where much of the action takes place.
Van Horsen is also a lefty, which makes him the perfect choice for right wing, where his shooting angle is harder to deflect. And he's smart, Nelke said: He can read the game and know where to be for the best position.
"He's given a lot of effort to make him the best he can be," Nelke said. "And it's paid off."
Van Horsen shrugs that off, too. He does work hard, he said, but he goes in with the mindset that it's time to have fun, which is what he recommends his successors do. And the team is the bottom line: "It's not individual. That's why West Albany did well."
Van Horsen will continue to pay water polo, January through July, with the Willamette Valley club team. After that, though, if and when he plays, it will mostly be for fun. College swimming isn't in his future.
His plans are to attend Linn-Benton Community College this fall, studying welding and agriculture. Like his parents, he and brother Adrian plan to run a farm. Instead of raising sheep, however, he's looking at alfalfa, or maybe straw.
He won't leave the water entirely, however. "I fully intend to continue swimming past high school," he said. "I really enjoy swimming and I definitely want to keep it in my life."
And, said Nelke, "If he does stick around, I hope to persuade him to come back and coach."