From saving shots to winning pageants

Junior water polo goalkeeper Alyssa Welfringer holds a bouquet of flowers after winning the Miss Huntington Beach pageant Oct. 14. Photos courtesy of Alyssa Welfringer

When she was a child, junior water polo goalkeeper Alyssa Welfringer would watch Miss Huntington Beach glide by on her float in the city’s annual Fourth of July parade. This year, Welfringer, who had never competed in a pageant before, will be the one in the spotlight after taking home the Miss Huntington Beach title Oct. 14.

“My teammates would come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t know you did pageants,’ and I would say, ‘I don’t do pageants, I’m doing this pageant,’” Welfringer said.

A lifelong native of Huntington Beach, Welfringer saw the pageant as a way to give back to her community, although the $3,000 scholarship for winning didn’t discourage her either, she said. She wanted less to be a pageant winner, she said, and more to be an advocate for her hometown.

“I always thought, ‘What have I got to lose?’” Welfringer said. “If I didn’t win, I would be in the same place as if I’d never done it, but it was worth the shot.”

Before making it to the stage, Welfringer participated in a preliminary application process and an offstage interview. In these stages, contestants show that they have a strong cause to represent if they win, Welfringer said. Her platform is representing the Huntington Beach Children’s Library.

“It wasn’t about the pageant. The pageant was just the last part of the interview for the position,” Welfringer said. “It’s almost a physical tryout – like they have in water polo – to see if you can do the job.”

During the athletic wear portion of the pageant, the contestants weren’t required to dress up for a sport they actually played, but Welfringer wore her Chapman water polo uniform anyway. She believes the authenticity of wearing her own uniform gave her an edge.

“You could clearly tell I actually played the sport I was representing,” Welfringer said.

Alhough Welfringer felt prepared during the pageant process, she didn’t want to get her hopes up. For a while, she even tried to keep her participation in the pageant a secret from her team.

“This was a decision I made for myself,” Welfringer said. “I didn’t want to get really excited about anything until it was final, since there’s always doubt if you’re going to win or not. There’s no guaranteed outcome.”

Welfringer did let the secret slip one day after practice while chatting with teammates in the hot tub, but their response was overwhelmingly supportive, she said.

“Everyone is excited and super proud (of Welfringer),” said freshman utility player Emily Whitney. “She’s doing it for the right reasons.”

Now that she has earned her title, Welfringer’s responsibilities include representing her city at community events, like its annual Fourth of July parade, the Queen’s Rose Garden Ceremony, the Firehouse Ball and the Duck-A-Thon. Welfringer said that she’s prepared to juggle these responsibilities with school and water polo.

“There are definitely going to be days where I have a match in the morning and then I need to be in a dress in Huntington later that day,” Welfringer said. “But I’m excited to do both.”

Water polo head coach Eric Ploessel has no doubt Welfringer will be able to handle her newfound responsibility while staying dedicated to her team, he said.

“We try and tell the girls, it’s not all about water polo and school,” Ploessel said. “They can do other stuff. Academics, water polo, being Miss Huntington Beach, it’s all possible. I think (Welfringer) is a good example of that.”

Welfringer said she hasn’t had time to promote the Huntington Beach Children’s Library yet, but looks forward to helping and connecting with others in her community.

“The adults come to events, see Miss Huntington Beach and they end up meeting Alyssa,” Welfringer said. “Then I can tell them about the work I’m doing. The kids, to them, I’m just the first princess they’ve met that doesn’t have an animal sidekick.”

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