By Amelia Biscardi,
Davis High alumna Heather West, who played water polo and swam for DHS, passed away from stage four colon cancer in May, at 30 years old. The DHS water polo team retired her number on Aug. 25. The retirement ceremony was at the Arroyo Swim Complex and began around 7 p.m.
Doug Wright, one of her high school water polo coaches, made the decision to retire her number. Wright spoke at the opening and closing and was there to greet everyone at the entrance. Some of Heather’s former teammates, Christi Raycraft and Dakotah Mohr Sturla, spoke about her as well. Other keynote speakers were men’s water polo coach Tracy Stapleton and Heather’s father and former coach, Rick West.
Heather graduated from DHS in 2005 and was named DHS’s female athlete of the year. After graduating, she went to Stanford University playing water polo, and in her junior and senior years she was made captain of the team. Heather was diagnosed with colon cancer two and a half years before she passed away.
By the time of the ceremony, the Arroyo Pool’s parking lot was packed with cars.
There was a moment of silence while Heather’s favorite song “Wide Open Spaces” by Dixie Chicks was played.
Besides her excellent play, the energy Heather brought to games was noted at the ceremony.
“She just played with a great deal of tenacity,” Wright said.
Heather’s sister Sarah West saw her sister’s passion for swimming and water polo.
“I think [swimming and water polo] were a big source of joy for her,” Sarah said.
Sarah went on to say that her sister loved the water and was always in it, no matter if it was the ocean or freezing cold.
Rick West believed that one of the the main reasons Heather loved water polo was the team.
“One of the big things about water polo was the camaraderie of the team,” Rick said.
Sarah said that her sister would always play an age group up and was never afraid of the older, more experienced players.
Cathy West, Heather’s mother, swam before having her daughters. She competed in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, and at the ceremony explained why she thought her daughter enjoyed swimming and playing water polo, and also gave insight into her daughter’s work ethic.
“[Heather] really enjoyed pursuing something that was a challenge,” Cathy said. “Some people like to cut corners or take an easier road; Heather never did that.”
“She was the kid who went off the high dive when she was two,” Rick said.
Wright described what sort of water polo player she was.
“What she was known for was making people better,” Wright said. “She was always having fun and leading through example.”
Throughout the evening there were mentions of Heather’s lighter side. Wright shared one story.
Wright keeps the balls for water polo in a green trash can and on a windy day, he leaves for the office for a minute during practice only to come back and find that the garbage can has fallen over. All of the water polo balls are in the water and so is the garbage can itself. The can is sort of floating and there is Heather West, climbing on top of it, like a jungle gym. Wright found it funny because they had recently won a Section Title and they had a lot of work to do and there was Heather, on the garbage can.
This upcoming women’s water polo season will be dedicated to her. Underneath the women’s water polo players’ game caps will be an additional cap with her number on it, and Wright is planning on creating a banner to hang up at Arroyo during home games with her name and number on it.