Marin Balarin - Hard Work Pays Off

For senior water polo player Marin Balarin, the old adage "hard work plays off" certainly rings true in the summation of his career at Cal as he earned the 2013 Jake Gimbel Prize.
By Cal Athletics on Tue, July 23, 2013

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For senior water polo player Marin Balarin, the old adage “hard work plays off” certainly rings true in the summation of his career at Cal. Considered the heart and soul of the 2012 squad by head coach Kirk Everist, Balarin earned the 2013 Jake Gimbel Prize as the best example of the true Golden Bear spirit among this year’s class.

Perhaps making the award more special is the fact that Balarin’s nomination came from freshman teammate Colin Mulcahy, a rare instance when the vast majority of recommendations are submitted by coaches or academic advisors. The Gimbel Prize, which has been presented since the 1930s, recognizes a graduating male student-athlete for successful integration of academic and athletic pursuits.

“The Jake Gimbel Award is just a fantastic honor for Marin,” Everist said. “He tried every position except goalie and was always been willing to battle for a spot and learn. For him to become a starting player and team captain as a senior was so great to watch. He is a leader and someone whom I am very proud to have coached.”

Born in Zagreb, Croatia, Balarin moved to Berkeley as a one-year-old when his father, Felice, was earning his doctorate at Cal. After attending Berkeley High School, where he was one of the Yellow Jackets all-time top water polo players with a school-record 210 goals, Balarin chose to attend Cal and major in applied mathematics.

Despite being a star at Berkeley High, Balarin had to work his way up the ranks on the Bears’ water polo team to see any playing time. After scoring two goals as a redshirt freshman and competing in 11 matches as a sophomore, he had a breakout year as a junior, totaling 19 goals with 28 ejections earned and was the recipient of the Peter J. Cutino Award as the team’s most improved player.

Then as a senior captain, Balarin became one of the top players in the MPSF and a third-team All-American. He was selected to the MPSF All-Tournament Team after helping Cal win seven of its last eight matches, including upending No. 2-ranked UCLA, 12-9, in the conference tournament semifinal. Balarin finished the 2012 campaign leading the team with 51 ejections earned and third in goals with 41. He concluded his Cal career with 68 goals, and was selected national and conference All-Academic three straight years.

 “It was wonderful to be recognized by my team,” said Balarin. “I knew coming to Cal that I didn’t have as much experience as the other guys who had played for the U.S. National Team or in Europe, but I knew that Cal had a great combination of athletic and academic excellence that would help me grow. There were moments when I felt like giving up because water polo is an ultra-competitive sport, but I kept on pushing and working on making sure the coaches knew that I wanted this more than anything. And the coaches kept their promise that if I kept on working hard I would get an opportunity. It all worked out well for me.”


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