Chris Kreienkamp doesn’t necessarily like to talk about himself. But his coach and teammates are definitely willing to take up the slack.
"One of his teammates once said, ‘I’d sure like to have your desire to be the best at everything you do,' " St. Louis University High water polo coach Paul Baudendistel said.
Kreienkamp is near the top of his class at SLUH. He was the school's choice for Post-Dispatch Scholar Athlete. He had perfect attendance. His favorite subject is math. He was a violinist in SLUH’s chamber orchestra. He’s an Eagle Scout. He was the Junior Billikens' head football manager and reporter. He was on the SLUH Pastoral Team.
“There’s all these things and there’s probably more I don’t even know about because he doesn’t talk about himself,” Baudendistel said.
And, oh yeah, he’s also really good at water polo.
Kreienkamp was the leader of a SLUH team that went 25-1 this season and increased its record number of Missouri Water Polo championships to 18. For those efforts, Kreienkamp can add another thing to his already impressive list of accomplishments — Post-Dispatch All-Metro water polo player of the year.
In the title game, Kreienkamp and the SLUH defense held Lindbergh to a mere single tally in a 10-1 win, an impressive feat considering the sheer volume of goals that can be scored in a water polo game.
“Defense is where we wanted to go,” he said. “I pride myself on my defense, so that was big for me.”
Kreienkamp led the Jr. Bills in field blocks for the third season in a row. He also led the team in steals for a second consecutive campaign. And he added a third category, as he also was SLUH’s leader in assists.
Because of injuries to others, Kreienkamp was forced to spend a good chunk of 2015 as SLUH’s primary defender. So, coming into this season, his prowess on the defense was unquestioned. But, the 18-year-old stepped up his game on the offensive side this spring with 62 goals and 172 points (ninth in the area) to make himself one of the area’s top two-way players.
“Defense comes first," Kreienkamp said, "but I think this year is when my offensive game started to form, more so than in previous years."
Part of the reason for that, Kreinekamp said, was because of the holes left in SLUH's attack with the graduation of 2015 standouts Colin Derdeyn (2015 All-Metro player of the year and Eric Caselton.
As a youngster, Kreienkamp saw his older brother, Ray, whom he calls his role model, help win Baudendistel’s first state title in 2005. Now, he’ll get to watch his little brother, Mike, get his shot when his freshman year at SLUH rolls around in two months.
“He’s excited about water polo and I know that he’ll work hard,” Kreienkamp said. “I’ll be happy to be able to come back and still have a connection with the school for at least another four years.”
A good part of his next four years will also be spent in South Bend, Ind., where he will be an engineering major and club water polo player at Notre Dame.
“To me, when I visited, it almost seemed like SLUH in the sense that it’s sort of like a family up there. It’s very Catholic, very deep-rooted in its traditions,” Kreienkamp said. “I know several SLUH alumni who’ve gone there and they’ve absolutely loved it, one of which was Coach P (John Penilla), the JV coach (and varsity assistant).”
And you can take it to the bank that he’ll be one of the hardest workers on campus.
“You’re talking about a kid who was once cut from swimming and then ended up being a team captain in that sport (as well as water polo),” Baudendistel said. “He’s not an outgoing kid, but he was one of our loudest players in the water. He was a vocal leader for us. As a teacher and coach, it’s just always nice to see a kid put in that much work and get rewarded.”