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It could have been a devastating moment for Michael Kreienkamp.

The St. Louis University High junior was cut from the Junior Billikens swimming team just prior to what would turn out to be SLUH’s first championship swimming season in 15 years.

“The thing about it is it gave me more time to play club water polo,” he said. “I had three more months to work at it. It actually worked out well.”

Kreienkamp used that time wisely to get himself geared up to the lead the charge as the water polo season culminated with SLUH’s fifth consecutive water polo championship and a nod as the All-Metro player of the year.

“He’s not a great swimmer, but he wasn’t going to let that be a deterrent to him (in water polo),” Jr. Bills coach John Penilla said. “He’s a humble guy and he wanted to be better and do whatever it takes.”

Kreienkamp did whatever it took to put the ball in the net this season with 109 goals and 239 points, both fifth in the area. He was also named the Missouri Water Polo Dick Newman Offensive Player of the Year.

“It’s mind boggling that he only had 15 goals last year,” Penilla said. “He had nine goals in a game this season and he had a couple seven-goal games. He filled the role exactly as we needed. He always put himself in position to take a good shot and score.”

SLUH had a plethora of capable scorers in 2018, thus less of a need for Kreienkamp to score. But after graduation gutted that dynamic class of seniors, he knew he would need to step up the offense as early as the 2019 season opener when he tallied five goals in a tone-setting win at Parkway West.

“I came in freshman year as a defensive player, but I knew I needed to step up offensively this year, starting with the Parkway West game,” he said. “That started us off on a good note and we didn’t look back.”

What started with Parkway West also ended with Parkway West, as the Jr. Bills met the Longhorns for the district championship for the second season in a row.

Kreienkamp had a pair of early goals to help give SLUH a 4-2 lead. But the Jr. Bills eventually found themselves trailing late. They scored in the final minute to send the game to overtime where only one goal was scored by none other than Kreienkamp.

“Mike obviously had a fantastic year,” Penilla said. “He’s a guy who we knew would have to be strong if we were to be successful. It’s a credit to him. He put in the effort.”

That effort comes from keeping the family tradition going. Kreienkamp’s brothers, Ray (a 2007 graduate) and Chris (2016), were also successful members of SLUH championship water polo teams.

“My brothers have really done everything for me as far as water polo,” Michael Kreienkamp said. “Ray has been my coach. Chris is always trying to help out, even when he’s at college (he’ll be a senior at Notre Dame next year). I’ve learned so much from those guys.”

Leadership is likely one of those learned skills, as Kreienkamp was named a co-captain this season as a junior, a rarity in SLUH water polo circles.

“As far as I know, we’ve never had that,” Penilla said. “The team voted on it. In my mind, it would be strange if Mike wasn’t a captain. He’s a guy we look to in the huddle.”

Kreienkamp said the seniors on the team were “great” about him being a junior captain this season and now he will get to take that experience into a senior season he hopes will see the Jr. Bills add on to their already record-setting run with a sixth successive title.

“It’s not going to be a cakewalk, but it will be fun,” he said. “We’re just going to go out there and have fun and see what happens.”



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