One day, Marquette junior Simon Hermansen “just showed up for practice” for the Mustangs water polo team.
To this day, Coach Tim Mosby is glad he did.
“He came to tryouts,” Mosby said. “He participated in swimming in the fall, too. [I] didn’t know about him until the swim coach [Joe Schoedel] told me about him.”
Hermansen ended the water polo season as one of the Mustangs’ top players, scoring 127 goals and 36 assists for 290 points.
Hermansen is also an exchange student from Risskov in Denmark, where he previously played water polo and swam competitively.
Prior to coming overseas, Hermansen went through a process that included an examination of academic and financial qualifications and multiple interviews. However, Hermansen isn’t the only one in his family to have experienced the process. His 21-year-old brother also previously traveled to the U.S. as an exchange student.
“I like to experience new cultures and I was the one who chose to do it,” Hermansen said.
However, Hermansen said the destination of Chesterfield and Marquette High was random and that he “knew close to nothing about St. Louis” before arriving.
“I’ve gone to the Arch and I thought it was an amazing experience,” Hermansen said. “The view from up there was awesome.”
Hermansen also said he’s been warmly received.
“There’s a stereotype that Americans are very friendly towards strangers and all I can say is that it was also the case for me when I was here,” Hermansen said.
The welcome extended to his new school. After first arriving at Marquette, Hermansen started swimming during the fall boy’s season with coach Joe Schoedel. Through the program, he also learned about the school’s water polo team through connections in his host family.
“Simon got set up through the exchange program with a family who just happened to have one of my girls’ team swimmers,” Schoedel said. “The mom reached out to me last summer to let me know that they were hosting an exchange student who was a water polo player, and maybe I could talk him into the swim team to stay in shape for polo.”
Hermansen took part in several events and said swimming with the Mustangs was “a fun experience.”
Hermansen ended up finishing first in the 50 freestyle, 100 breast and 200 freestyle relay. He also qualified for the Class 2 state meet, where he finished 10th in the 50 free with a time of 21.86 seconds and finished 10th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.10.
“Swimming isn’t his first sport,” Schoedel said. “He swam competitively when he was younger in Denmark but quit a few years earlier to focus on polo.”
After experiencing both sports, Hermansen opted to stick with the latter.
“I quit competitive swimming when I was 12,” Hermansen said. “The reason I didn’t quit water polo was that I find it more interesting, more things going on.”
After showing up for water polo practice, Mosby saw Hermansen’s skill the moment he was in the water.
“In the first practice, [he] was hitting the corner of the goal from far out,” Mosby said. As a result, Mosby played Hermansen at multiple positions, including driver and at the 2m mark.
“I don’t really have one position that I have each game,” Hermansen said. “It depends on who we are playing and where the team needs me the most. My biggest strength is probably my game knowledge. Besides that, I’m 6’5” and left-handed, which are both things that are good to have in water polo.”
Ultimately, Hermansen also credited his teammates for the Mustangs success.
“My team has, for sure, helped me achieve this many goals,” Hermansen said.
Aside from an April shoulder injury near the end of the season from overuse, Hermansen spoke highly of his teammates and the season overall.
“This season was overall a good experience,” Hermansen said. “I enjoyed it a lot, and my team consisted of a bunch of fun and nice people.”
At the end of May, Hermansen will return to Denmark to finish schooling. Mosby said Hermansen will be missed.
“Teammates love his quiet sense of humor,” Mosby said. “He was a good student. He got along with teammates and was our best offensive player.”